Uganda downplays fears on relations with Rwanda

Wednesday February 20 2019

Presidents

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame before their meeting at State House in Entebbe in March 2018. PHOTO | AFP 

By DAILY MONITOR
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The government has downplayed fears that Uganda's relationship with Rwanda has deteriorated.

The clarity comes at the backdrop of simmering tension between the two neighbouring countries with Rwanda accusing Uganda of aiding dissidents associated with Rwanda National Congress to destabilize Kigali.

In a recent interview, Rwandan President Paul Kagame told The EastAfrican that tension was mounting between the two countries because Uganda had opted to listen to rumours by Rwandan exiles in South Africa other than what Kigali is saying.

Uganda was also put on a red alert for arresting Rwandans accused of carrying out different acts of espionage with the help of certain individuals in the Uganda Police Force.

But government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said that Uganda has institutional mechanisms to gather intelligence as opposed to relying on rumours.

“It's laughable for anybody to suggest that the government of Uganda does not have institutional mechanism to pick and process information and simply relies on rumours from perhaps Rwandan dissidents in South Africa or elsewhere. If that was the case, government of Uganda would be at loggerheads with virtually every government around the world becuase in each of the countries around the world, there are people who bad mouth government of Uganda. The government of Uganda does not listen to dissidents or people who have disgreed with other countries around the world,” Mr Ofwono told journalists in Kampala on Tuesday.

Opondo's statement comes a day after the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party asked President Museveni and commander of Special Forces Brigade (SFC) Maj. Gen. Don Nabasa to explain to Ugandans whether the country is on the brink of war with Rwanda.

FDC spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda said the recent rhetoric by Museveni and Nabasa on threats at Uganda's borders, coupled with a string of deportation of MTN Uganda senior staff, some of whom were Rwandan, raises many questions.

The latest victim of the deportations was MTN-Uganda Chief Executive Officer Wim Vanhelleputte.

Others deported earlier include Elsa Mussolini, the General Manager for Mobile Finance Services, French national Olivier Prentout, who was the Chief Marketing Officer and Rwandan national Annie Bilenge Tabura, the General Manager, Sales and Distribution.

Government officials said the deported individuals were involved in activities that were compromising national security. However, Rwanda Foreign Affairs State Minister, Olivier Nduhungirehe accused Uganda of criminalizing Rwandans walking and working in Uganda.

Nduhungirehe added that only activities allowed for Rwandans in Uganda seemed to be plotting against their country, denouncing fellow Rwandans and training forces for the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), and P5, a coalition of Rwandan opposition political organizations linked to Rwanda's former military chief, Kayumba Nyamwasa.

The UN Security Council in December said P5 had started recruiting combatants in South Kivu with local and external support from Burundi, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Drums of war

Mr Ssemujju argued that these developments concern FDC because it's not a matter of armies preparing but a threat to Uganda, its territorial boundaries and the people.

"We would like to know from Museveni and his commanders what has happened between undertakings made between Uganda and Rwanda. As a party we're concerned that while Ugandan leader and his commanders are sounding drums of war, they are not preparing their citizens as they get ready for that war," Mr Ssemujju said.

But Opondo says that the two countries are still partners and have good relations with the government and people of Rwanda.

“We still consider that we have very good relations with the people of Rwanda and their government and we shall not move away from our Pan-African stance of supporting our African brothers and sisters who may be in trouble,” he said.

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