Exiled Nyamwasa: Is he behind the fresh tensions between Uganda, Rwanda?

Just when Uganda and Rwanda relations were becoming friendlier, tensions are simmering again and could derail the progress so far made by both countries in improving ties. 

Last month’s visit by Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the first son and commander of the Land Forces, to President Paul Kagame led to the reopening of the Katuna/Gatuna border after three years of closure.

The border had been closed with Rwanda accusing Uganda of supporting rebel groups aimed at destabilizing the former, while Kampala accused Kigali of spying and supporting Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Both countries denied the allegations.

Following the border reopening, analysts hailed the move as a step in the right direction, and the subsequent reshuffle in the army, with Maj Gen Abel Kandiho being dropped as military intelligence chief was another mark of confidence.

However, since then, President Kagame has announced plans to invade the Democratic Republic of Congo because there are some forces trying to destabilize Rwanda.

“All our eyes are on Congo. We are focused there because of the armed groups based there that threaten us, including the ADF [that the joint DRC-Uganda armed forces are attempting to dismantle.] We are keeping an eye on this matter. But rest assured we will ultimately sort this out. We will use all available means, including persuasion and agreement for solutions,” President Kagame said in a speech in the Rwandan Parliament on February 8 as quoted by The Rwandan media outlet.

“But when anyone crosses a red line, we don’t ask anybody for permission to intervene. We simply move in and sort the problem out. We are still at the stage of assessing the situation and weighing our options,” he added.

One of elements believed to be stoking the fire is Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former Rwandan army chief of staff, who is suspected of having rebel activities in Uganda.  

He has been in exile and is part of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC). It is likely that Kagame’s warnings were targeted at Nyamwasa.

This could have provoked Gen Kainerugaba to tweet, warning Nyamwasa not to conduct his rebel activities in Uganda.

“This is not about political points. I have no interest in politics. The illegal and criminal activities of RNC in Uganda in the past were driving us to a stupid war! All those who were involved in that deceitful enterprise will be found out!” he tweeted.

“General Kayumba and RNC, I don’t know what problems you had in Rwanda with the mainstream RPF/RDF? But I warn you not to dare use my country for your adventures!” he added.

It must be noted that the UN Security Council has previously said some of the RNC activities were being supported by Burundi, Uganda and DR Congo.

Last week, there was speculation that Gen Salim Saleh, the Operation Wealth Creation boss, was going to Rwanda, but the Foreign Ministry dismissed the claims.

“Uganda and Rwanda are doing everything possible to normalize their bilateral relations but are also mindful of some members of the public whose actions could derail the warm and cordial relations being cultivated between the two countries,” the ministry said in a statement.

“For the record, there is no planned visit to Kigali by General Salim Saleh as purported by NBS journalist through his Twitter handle @CanaryMugume. The Ministry calls upon all responsible members of the society to desist from circulating false information that is devoid of facts,” it added.

So why has Mr Kagame raised a security threat to his country in DRC? It is clear that a lot still has to be done in restoring relations between the two countries. 

The reopening of the border is one of those, but beneath that lies more than the eye can see or ear can hear. Diplomatic efforts need to be deliberate in ending the tension by addressing Kagame’s concerns, as citizens have been through difficulty for the last three years and would not want anything worse like a war.  

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