Speculation rife after Museveni sends package to Kagame

Monday October 29 2018

Diplomacy

From left: Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera and his predecessor Louise Mushikiwabo in Kigali on October 25, 2018. PHOTO | URUGWIRO 

By The EastAfrican
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The tensions between Uganda and Rwanda seemed to ease this past week as high-ranking officials of both governments were hosted in Kigali by President Paul Kagame.

On Thursday, Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa led a delegation to Rwanda bearing a mystery package sent by President Yoweri Museveni to his Rwandan counterpart.

Mr Kutesa personally delivered the white package whose contents remain a mystery.

The Museveni State House then issued a statement and shared pictures of the meeting.

A source told The EastAfrican that the package could have been reciprocate one Kigali dispatched to Kampala.

“Relations between Kampala and Kigali are difficult to analyse, but the fact is that they are still far from normal. If Museveni sent a special package, he could have been responding to one sent from Kagame. Kigali has raised a lot of concerns about harassment of its citizens in Uganda. I understand there have been many official complaints, so maybe this was a response,” said the source.

Efforts to get details of the Kigali discussions were difficult to come by as officials, including Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Kampala Frank Mugambagye, declined to comment.

In Kigali, pictures shared online showed Mr Kutesa with President Kagame, Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera and his predecessor Louise Mushikiwabo.

Diplomacy

The news of the meeting was warmly received in Kampala and Kigali as a right step towards improving strained relations between the neighbours.

But observers are keen to point to a laundry list of concerns mainly by Kigali, which accuses authorities in Uganda of arresting, detaining and dispossessing Rwandans of their property.

“President Kagame has been talking to President Museveni regarding the relations between the two countries. The Heads of State have in principle agreed to work out existing issues,” said another source.

Observers say relations between the two countries are far from thawing, as accusations continue but the meeting in Kigali provides a ray of hope.

Rwanda maintains that its citizens are being targeted inside Uganda, detained and tortured.

Kigali also maintains that Uganda is providing sanctuary to anti-government elements who plan to destabilise the country, including members of the Rwanda National Congress who are reportedly active inside Uganda.

Relations between the two countries have in recent months continued to deteriorate with no sign of either side making amends, despite President Kagame and President Museveni meeting in March this year in Entebbe.

For more than a year, the unease between the two neighbours, which started in October 2017, has continued with both sides trading accusations.

Uganda claims Rwandan operatives have infiltrated Ugandan security agencies and propagated insecurity among Rwanda refugees.

Inflammatory language used by government and military officials on both sides has not helped matters.

Diplomatic sources say both Kigali and Kampala have acted to remove individuals from certain positions to allow the thawing to begin.

Kutesa’s visit is the first diplomatic contact between the two countries in recent months, despite both countries maintaining diplomatic missions in each other’s capital.

Mistrust between the two countries has led to the stalling of key projects under the Northern Corridor initiative. A planned working visit by President Museveni to Rwanda following the March meeting in Entebbe is yet to materialise.

By Ivan R. Mugisha, Edmund Kagire and Ben Muneza.