This week, Ambassador Adonia Ayebare delivered President Yoweri Museveni’s special message to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame in Kigali. The details of the message are a top secret but Kigali admitted receiving it. Photos of Ambassador Ayebare personally transiting the message to President Kagame have widely been shared online.
The gesture by Uganda reaching out to Rwanda flashed a ray of hope towards resuming talks between the two countries that seemed to have been abandoned.
Whereas Rwanda’s foreign affairs ministry acknowledged that President Museveni’s message was received, Kigali is already sending signals that they could yet again frustrate the talks as they previously did.
In a tweet, Rwanda government spokesperson, Yolande Makolo immediately expressed pessimism in related engagements.
“Good to see talks continue at all levels, but meetings & envoy visits have not led to tangible results on Uganda’s part. Still no accountability for terrorist elements operating against Rwanda inside Uganda, and harassment of innocent Rwandans continues,” Yolande wrote.
Her words and tone, very synonymous of those of the then minister of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in charge of East African Community, Olivier Nduhungirehe’s unfortunate statements on the talks, are not only disastrous but also, preemptive of her government’s view on restoring relations with Uganda.
In fact, they undermine the spirit of negotiations and if not tamed, a repeat of the same, has a potential of permanently fracturing the talks and prolong the much wanted restoration of good relations between the two countries.
Several political commentators and nationals of the two countries have since expressed optimistim about what they think would resurrect talks to restore bilateral relations that soured in February 2019 Katuna/Gatuna border.
At the time, authorities in Rwanda said the closure was due to the renovations at the border. Cargo was then diverted to Mirama Hills and Kyanika border posts in Ntungamo and Kisoro districts, but those too were later closed.
Kigali shortly after, issued a travel advisory to its nationals warning them against travelling to Uganda, which it accused of, among other things, abducting its citizens and detaining them in ungazetted areas, although these were widely regarded as Kigali’s usual accusations as cover-up to reports of them backing rebel groups to destabilize other countries as well as abduction and illegal repatriation of Rwandan Refugees and Asylum seekers in neighbouring countries.
Uganda on the other hand accused Kigali of among others espionage. Indeed, several Rwanda agents linked to kidnappings of Rwandan refugees were arrested in Uganda and deported back to Kigali in 2020 and dozens of Rwandan nationals considered to engage in espionage and entered Uganda illegally was deported.
There were also reports that Rwanda was facilitating elements of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) to engage in criminal activities against Uganda and its people.
Since the closure of border, there has been at least four tripartite meetings involving Angolan President Joao Lourenço, and DR Congo President Félix Tshisekedi, and a series of lower level meetings between government officials of the two nations, but they have not yielded much.
During the talks, Uganda would commit to and indeed, respect the requirements of the agreements for purposes of restoration of normalcy unlike Kigali which refused to reciprocate Kampala’s good gesture.
Instead, Rwanda government officials like Nduhungirehe, who was mediating in the Uganda-Rwanda talks on behalf of Rwanda then, frustrated them as he consistently used his social media platforms to ridicule the process and progress of the talks.
The slow progress in resolving the impasse between the two brotherly countries with strong historical and political ties is hitting harder the nationals of the two countries who would move and trade freely across the two countries. They have always reached out to leaders to speed up the talks such that normalcy returns.