Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Sam Kutesa has today Friday delivered a special message from President Museveni to Rwanda President Paul Kagame in Kigali.
Officials of Uganda and Rwanda described the meeting as cordial.
President Museveni’s message to his Rwandan counterpart largely focused on regional integration.
The meeting which was held at Village Urugwiro was also aimed at strengthening the countries’ bilateral relations.
The meeting comes at a time when relations between the two countries are simmering.
The tension also comes at the heels of accusations that authorities in Rwanda have for long used elements in the Uganda Police Force to kidnap and illegally repatriate Rwandan refugees to Rwanda.
Months ago, Uganda arrested and prosecuted senior Uganda Police officers as well as a Rwandan national, Rene Rutagungira for kidnapping Rwandan refugees and President Kagame’s former body guard Mutabazi and handing them over to Rwanda against their wish.
In recent weeks, Rwanda has accused Uganda of being home to some elements linked to Rwanda National Congress (RNC), a group which Rwanda says is a terrorist rebel group led by Rwandan nationals.
Just a week ago, on December 29, the Rwandan government sent a protest note to the Ugandan government condemning “multiple unjustified arrests” of its citizens in Uganda.
A day prior, five Rwandan nationals living in Uganda had been arrested and deported to Rwanda.
Weeks earlier one Kigali based Fidelle Gatsinzi was deported by Uganda to Rwanda.
Rwanda media claimed he was a Rwandan businessman who had come to Uganda to visit his child, a student in one of Uganda’s schools, but was tortured.
Ugandan authorities who this site contacted wondered why an innocent businessman would be arrested.
“Uganda is home to many Rwandese. Many own homes and businesses in Uganda and their students study from Ugandan schools because Uganda is safe for everyone. Gatsinzi was deported for security reasons and handed to Rwanda. He is one of those much feared by refugees as one of the most notorious Rwandan intelligence elements who has been disguising as a businessman yet he runs rackets that brutally abduct people back to Rwanda. We are dismantling all those Rwandan rackets in Uganda and that is why Gatszinzi was deported,” a security official speaking on condition of anonymity told SoftPower News.
The government of Uganda has also repeatedly denied harboring the said rebels and urged Kigali to use the existing diplomatic channels to express its concerns.
While Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo claimed in a tweet that Rwandan citizens living in Uganda have been arrested and made to disappear, authorities in Uganda deny this and maintain that the said arrestees have either been charged in courts of law for different offences or deported for security reasons.”
“Who has disappeared? They are either charged in courts of law for different offences or deported to Rwanda for security reasons. The Ministry of Internal Affairs conducted the deportation in writing and the deported Rwandans were received by Rwanda authorities. We are focused on regional integration, and regional peace and security for all our citizens is part of the integration agenda,” an official told SoftPower News.
“The rest of the people Rwanda lays a claim on are Ugandans who hold Ugandan IDs. We have a duty to keep Uganda safe for all our citizens as well as every other citizen of the world on our territory and that does not exclude any refugee from any country.”
Experts have, however, spoken to the urgent need for the two governments to engage in talks, saying that bad relations could have precarious socio-economic implications.
The Banyarwanda is a recognised ethnic group by the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. This was informed by the fact that Africans were separated colonial borders and that Uganda is home to many Rwandans who fled the country as early as the 1950s from ethnic conflicts. Many intermarried with Ugandans. Some are employed by Uganda government, others seek livelihood from the private sector and farming, as well as other economic activities just like any other Ugandans. They also hold Ugandan Identification Documents (IDs). However, some Rwandan media have published stories suggesting that Ugandan citizens of Rwandan descent are Rwandans in the diaspora who they have a say over and should take orders from Kigali.