Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has once again accused Uganda of hosting and aiding dissidents plotting to destabilize his country.
According to Kagame, Uganda has refused to take action against dissidents, even when presented with concrete evidence.
This problem, he said has been snowballing for the last two decades.
The Rwandan leader spoke about Uganda-Rwanda relationship at length while opening the 16th National Leadership Retreat at Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) Combat Training Center in Gabiro, Eastern Province.
Kagame’s speech, which is likely to fuel simmering tensions between the two countries, reinforces the narrative presented by his senior government officials in the past weeks.
Rwanda closed its common border with Uganda, Gatuna at the end of February. The country strongly advised Rwandan nationals to desist from crossing into Uganda, saying it can’t protect them.
On Saturday, Kagame reiterated that Uganda is not safe for Rwandans, apart from those plotting to destabilize Rwanda.
“You can only be safe in Uganda if you are against Rwanda, that’s the only way they will welcome you. I have come to accept that we advise Rwandans not to go Uganda. But we don’t stop other people from coming here and we don’t touch them,” he said.
Presenting a historical perspective of the problem, Kagame referred to a former Rwandan Interior Minister—turned dissident—Seth Sendashonga who was assassinated in Nairobi in 1998.
The assassination remains a mystery. Kagame said Sendashonga had been meeting Ugandan army generals who promised support as he intensified rebel recruitment.
“My reason for pointing out this is to show the cycle things that have been happening for the last 20 years, where while we are meeting here trying to see how we can resolve and move, there is somebody else somewhere saying we will not allow you,” he said.
Rwanda, he said has been begging Uganda and will continue to beg for the latter’s support in trying to silence dissidents. Kagame spoke about several meetings he has had with President, Yoweri Museveni to discuss the matter. In person, Kagame said he has begged Museveni to deal with the matter.
Kagame further said Rwanda has requested Uganda to cut off ties with Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, a Rwandan running several enterprises in Uganda. Rujugiro is the proprietor of Meridian Tobacco Company, a $20 million (Shs 72 billion) business which opened in the West Nile town of Arua last year.
Kagame said Rujugiro is bankrolling Rwandan dissidents. Kagame said Museveni one time told him that he doesn’t know Rujugiro. But he proved to Museveni that he knows him. Then Museveni argued that Rwandans don’t differentiate between politics and business.
In another meeting, Kagame said he asked Museveni if there was a problem that Rwanda needed to address before Uganda takes action on “serious” challenges they were presenting. Kagame said there was “nothing” from Uganda side.
Kagame also referred to frank discussions that have been held by senior government official of the two countries—foreign affairs ministers and army generals—in which Rwanda made its case.
In all the discussions, Rwanda pleas, Kagame said have been that Uganda should help in dealing with the problem.
Uganda dismisses allegations
Earlier in the week, Uganda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa said Uganda has no reason to host elements hostile to Kigali or arrest and torture their citizens as alleged.
In the first official statement since the border at Katuna was closed to trucks, Kutesa dismissed as untrue allegations by Rwandan officials that Uganda hosts elements fighting Rwanda, and that Uganda arrests and tortures Rwandans. He also said it is unfortunate that movement of goods and people across the common border with Rwanda has been restricted.
Key Rwanda dissidents’ groups
Rwanda National Congress (RNC) is political group that Kigali has branded as rebels. It is linked to former Rwanda military chief, Kayumba Nyamwasa who is currently living in exile in South Africa.
P5 Group: is a coalition of Rwandan opposition political organisations including the Amahoro People’s Congress (AMAHORO-PC), the Forces démocratiques unifées-Inkingi (FDU INKINGI), the People’s Defence Pact-Imanzi (PDP-IMANZI), the Social Party-Imberakuri (PS IMBERAKURI) and the Rwanda National Congress (RNC). The leaders of these groups are living in exile.
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.