Uganda and Rwanda are inching closer to a deal that could see the Katuna border point reopened about a year since it was closed over frosty relations between the two landlocked neighbors.
If resolutions from the third meeting of the Ad Hoc Commission on the implementation of the Luanda Memorandum of Understanding between Uganda and Rwanda are anything to go by, then the border point could be reopened as soon as next weekend when Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame meet.
But how soon the border could be reopened will depend on how quick Uganda handles the allegation that Kampala is supporting rebel groups working to distabilise Rwanda – the thorniest issue that stands between Museveni and Kagame, Rwanda and Uganda.
The meeting that ended late Friday night in Kigali saw Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa and Ambassador Olivier Nduhungirehe Rwanda’s junior Minister in charge of EAC Affairs set pace for their countries’ leaders who are expected to meet at the Katuna border on February 21, just 19 days since their last meeting in the Angolan capital of Luanda.
Both Kutesa and Nduhungirehe acknowledged that Rwandans and Ugandans had become wary of the border stalemate.
For example, in his opening remarks, Nduhungirehe noted: “I wish to emphasize once again our responsibility as leaders in our respective countries, I also emphasize the importance of building trust among ourselves and the need to find a solution to the different challenges we are facing.
“We have been following comments by wanainchi [citizens] from both countries, who are increasingly expressing fatigue over this self-inflicted injury in the East African Community. They are just demanding security on the common border, the end of destabilizing activities by armed and terrorist groups, and the free movement of people, goods and services in peace and security.”
Perhaps the biggest resolutions from the Kigali meeting are an agreement “to resume the collaboration between their [the two countries’] defence and security organs in order to improve the mechanisms of exchange of intelligence in the interest of their national security,” as well as finalization of an extradition treaty to be signed by the two presidents in a week’s time.
Other commitments made touched on verification of the “number and status of nationals detained in each other’s country” and protection and respect “human rights of nationals of either party in observance of the rule of law and international humanitarian law and by ensuring due process.”
On the former issue, Rwanda and Uganda agreed to share reports in three weeks’ time.
But some spiky issues remained, the prickliest being allegations that Kampala is supporting rebels seeking to disrupt Rwanda’s political stability.
Nduhungirehe gave details about this allegation. He said Kigali believed that Uganda was harboring and backing members of the Rwanda National Congress and RUD-Urunana in her territory. He demanded that Kampala arrests and extradites rebels “so that they can face justice in Rwanda.”
The Rwandan Minister also told Uganda to “refrain from all actions meant to destabilize Rwanda and eliminating all factors that may create such perception.”
Uganda, continued Nduhungirehe, should withdraw a passport reportedly issued to an RNC diplomat.
According to Rwanda, Kampala issued a Ugandan passport under number A000199979 to Charlotte Mukankusi, who is wanted by Kigali for her playing a huge role in her capacity as Commissioner in charge of Diplomacy in the RNC, a group the Kagame Government categorizes as a terrorist organization.
Rwanda has also listed at least six Ugandans officials they allege have links to RNC and RUD-Urunana networks. These include: junior Regional Affairs Minister Philemon Mateke, Brig Gen Abel Kandiho of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, Second Division Deputy Commander Brig Gen Fred Karara, CMI Deputy Director in charge of Counter Terrorism Col CK Asiimwe, Internal Security Organisation (ISO) chief Col Kaka Bagyenda and Maj Fred Mushambo.
EVIDENCE LINKING UGANDAN OFFICIALS TO ANTI-KAGAME REBELS
Nduhungirihe also offered evidence to the effect that Uganda was backing Rwandan rebels. He named NGO Self Worth Initiative’s officials Sula Nuwamanya and Prossy Bonabana as collaborating with RNC and Government of Uganda (GoU).
He also claimed Mukankusi had visited Kampala on January 2020 to deliver vital RNC information to GoU.
The Minister also labelled Pastor Deo Nyirigira and Dr Sam Ruvuma top “RNC Uganda Province” contacts and accused them of engaging in activities of “recruitment, restructuring, mobilization, fundraising, forming new cells and committees in various parts of Uganda, especially in Kyangwari and Nakivale refugee camps, and Mityana.”
Kagame’s Minister further accused elderly Museveni Minister Mateke of protecting Capt Nshimiye, alias “Gavana”, the man Kigali blames for the Kinigi terror attack of early October 2019.
“He [Nshimiye] freely frequents Kyangwari Refugee Camp where some of their combatants and dependents are located. Nshimiye regularly travels to Kisoro to visit his wife and to meet Minister Mateke for briefings,” further claimed Nduhungirehe.
Other rebels Rwanda accuses Uganda of harboring are Fidèle Nzabonimana, Seleman Kabayiza and Eric Mugwaneza, who Kigali list as RUD Urunana operatives and also faults them for taking part in the Kinigi attack.
Rwanda also alleges that CMI has continued to mobilize RNC and RUD-Urunana “terrorist organisations” even after the August 2019 Luanda Memorandum of Understanding signed between Museveni and Kagame.
For example, Nduhungirehe further claimed, CMI facilitated a two-day meeting between the members of RNC and RUD-Urunana terrorist organisations in Mbarara on February 2, the same day Kagame and Museveni met again for the Quadripartite Summit in Angola.
To prove his allegations, the Rwandan Minister named some of the people who had attended the said meeting, including Nshimiye, Col Emmanuel Rugema and a one Col Sam of the RUD-Urunana. He also claimed deserter Lt Frank Mushaija, a one Maj Ntare, Capt Frank Mugisha, alias “Sunday”, Jean Marie Vianney Turabumukiza and Maj Robert Higiro had represented the RNC at the meeting.
He even offered details about the transport means the rebels allegedly used, as well as the purpose of the controversial meeting.
“CMI dispatched vehicles that took Col Rugema and his delegation from Kisoro to Mbarara for the meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to forge plans to start a new RUD-RNC rebellion and intensify mobilisation activities,” he said.
Nduhungirehe said Rwanda would formally give Uganda more details on “some specific issues related to destabilizing activities carried out by Rwandan rebel groups from Ugandan territory.”