It is possible Kigali did something that hurt Museveni personally and/or Uganda nationally. But what is it that it cannot be discussed and resolved? Does such action stand above our need for regional integration? What is so difficult for Uganda to get its grievances on a piece of paper and invite Rwandan officials to find a solution? Kigali has grievances against Kampala which they have made clear formally and informally. I have personally carried these grievances very many times to Kampala.
What is depressing is that for two years now, the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) has been arresting Rwandans in Uganda, detaining them, torturing them and deporting them back to Rwanda. It has never taken any of them before courts of law. Young Rwandans who have suffered this fate or whose relatives have suffered it have approached me severally for assistance. Officials of the government of Rwanda have done the same. They think given my access to key decisions makers in Uganda I can help. My appeals have landed on deaf ears. The only response I have gotten is that I am a spy of Rwanda.
As a private citizen I have staked everything to get the relationship between Uganda and Rwanda on the right footing. I can only count losses. I am acutely aware that this quarrel between Kampala and Kigali will inevitably lead to the collapse of the East African Community (EAC), the very institution that Museveni says is absolutely critical for our strategic security and prosperity. Let us not forget that the quarrel between Kenya and Tanzania and between Tanzania and Uganda in the 1970s led to the collapse of the first EAC. We are witnessing the beginning of the second unravelling of this regional body.
Last week, Rwanda blocked Ugandan cement from entering their country. Many Ugandan investors, workers and exporters are losing jobs and contracts in Rwanda. From Kigali’s perspective, it makes sense: why keep paying scarce dollars to individuals and businesses in a country seeking your destruction. And Uganda hasn’t acted much differently: we denied Rwandair a licence to fly out of Entebbe to London and Brussels in spite of a bilateral agreement on this. And Museveni has been chair of the EAC while Kagame for the AU.
Burundi has closed its border with Rwanda, South Sudan is falling apart and Tanzania is kicking Kenyans out and looking to SADC. That leaves Kenya as the only country not squabbling with other EAC members. But within Museveni’s broad definition of regional integration, Nairobi’s declaration of Somalia as an enemy state last week only shows how our nations are far from uniting and cooperating on anything.
The lesson I drew from Museveni’s otherwise great speech is that our strategic needs are often in conflict with our tactical considerations. Basically we are human. The fact that we know the problem and the solution does not take away our feelings, egos and idiosyncrasies. That is why Museveni needs to revise his views about pre-colonial African chiefs. Their response to colonial intrusion was shaped by the petty conflicts they were involved in. Consequently tactical quarrels overpowered strategic considerations – exactly as is the case between Uganda and Rwanda today.