All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey
Relations between siblings are never easy, it becomes about more than what is at stake, it becomes a battle for primacy and oedipal love. The recent border “closing” if we can call it that has caused a stir. It is all an administrative decision to divert trade and greatly inconvenience haulers and grind trade to a halt. To make it clear, trade was not blocked but made to go through the eye of a needle, Rwanda could not close the border, they signed up to free movement of trade in the EAC. If Rwanda had arbitrarily closed the border it would be liable to be sued by traders for losses unless it prove it was a national security reason. So the border is closed, yet it is open, both sides covered. The sanction had an immediate effect, two Rwandan detainees were released at the border and recounted harrowing torture and injustice. How did we get here? It has been a long simmering conflict that should never have been allowed to fester, Rwanda cannot afford and does not want to fall out with Uganda. Many Rwandans took the silence of Rwandan government on these detentions as a tacit admission that the detained were guilty. It is only when you look at the facts that you see the wider causes of this conflict, the recent manifestations are just a symptom but causes go deeper than what you see.
The Kale Kayihura vacuum
The removal from office of the Chief of Police Kale Kayihura left a massive vacuum in the security apparatus in Uganda. Museveni had relied on him for 10 years to maintain control, Kayihura was his fixer in everything. During that time Kampala often became a urban war zones with daily rioting and tear gas, armoured vehicles, pink dye water cannons, Museveni withdrew to his ranch and cattle, he effectively retired as president. Museveni left government to be plundered, as long as people remained loyal they could eat and destroy the government. At the same time many countries were taking forward strides, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopian, were racing ahead while Uganda remained stagnant. Most of the Uganda Opposition was under house arrest, Besigye could not leave his house, Museveni was just holding on for sake of it. Kayihura came to be more powerful than any man in Uganda save for the President, he absorbed all the hate from society and was a favourite scapegoat though he was just following orders. To remove him was not easy, Museveni tasked his old enemy Henry Tumukunde, who had been in the cold for long, to create the scenario to remove him. There was soon a civil war in the security services, Pro-Kayihura and Anti, Kayihura could not just resign, he needed to be destroyed first. This incentivized liars against Kayihura to make up evidence which they were handsomely rewarded for, and Kayihura was accused of being the head of spy-ring of double agents for Rwanda. All these charges were thrown out in Court Martial, Kayihura was sidelined, now came the purge to remove all his loyalists, then came the attacks on Rwandans.
The Kulayigye effect
There was a 10-year window when relations between the two were relatively good, there were often flare-ups but nothing serious from 2006-2016 window. I’ll never forget tuning in to BBC Gahuza and hearing a heated discussion between the RDF spokesman Rutaremara and UPDF Spokesman Kaluyigye in fluent Kinyarwanda, in fact the UPDF speaker had the better Kinyarwanda. Having a Kinyarwanda speaking spokesman was seen as a benefit to Uganda, having the Chief of Police who spoke Kinyarwanda and had relatives in the Rwanda government was also seen as an advantage. Uganda signed many treaties of cooperation with Rwanda, the Military and Police cooperated, we exchanged wanted criminals, RDF conducted rescue operations in Uganda in natural disasters. It seemed the vision of a cooperative future would follow, but this cooperation was built on good cordial relation of individuals, not the systems. The removal of Kayihura meant a change in relations with Rwanda, the cooperative network we had was now a “spy-ring”. Agents who cooperated with Uganda and assisted in regional matters were now being arrested and held in communicado, tortured, not offered medical help, consular visits and legal assistance. However, while some of the arrested were known agents, the vast majority of 800 people arrested and tortured were just innocent Rwandans. Any person with false information was believed because to fit the political narrative that Museveni wanted to hear. He is at an all-time low in popularity, the youth hate him, he needs to unite the country behind and a war with Rwanda would do that, but he could not be seen as the first so he had to provoke Rwanda quietly.
Sometimes you see a movie plot so outrageous that you have to watch it, The Expendables had all the 80’s and 90’s Action Heroes in one film. Arnie, Stallone, Chuck Norris, Van Damme, Snipes, Jet Li, and so many other in a movie, coming together for “one last mission” but it’s always a Box Office flop. These Stars each commanded billions on their own, now they can barely break even. The same has happened with Rwanda, it seemed ridiculous to hear of intel reports claiming Uganda is assembling the RNC, FDLR, CNDD, and various other armed militia and groups into the P5 which is already operational in DRC, I dismissed it till it came up in a UN report not friendly to Rwanda. We have gone from cooperation to actively supporting rebel groups against Rwanda, it might just be Museveni hedging his bets but it is a foolish gamble likely to fail. Maybe it is him just trying to get into the rich Congo mineral game, maybe he’s hedging his bets on overthrowing RPF, or maybe he’s senile. The heart of the problem is Museveni has run out of excuses, he has no long term vision for his country, he no longer understands the challenges facing his country. The price of his power is corruption and letting the Elite plunder the state, this means no money for medicines, books, computers, roads, or if you get them they are overpriced because corruption is factored in. Then just over yonder hill lies a relative paradise, not a perfect land by any means, but at least we’re trying. It is much easier for M7 to try and bring down Rwanda than emulate it, it is impossible with him in power with no cohesive vision for the Bazukulu. He wants to impose his regional power by getting in bed with Genocidal forces that would love to kill his people. It is like a black man working with the KKK just defeat his black enemy but the KKK would gladly kill you both. FDLR would love to kill every Muhima in Uganda, that is their goal, nothing has changed, like they want to kill every Tutsi in Rwanda, Museveni will eventually bring a genocide on his own blood.
What happens in Kisangani, stays in Kisangani
In 1999, for 6 days in Kisangani Rwanda and Uganda fought a war, no one knew the cause but the outcome was clear, little Rwanda won. Kisangani was the point of rebirth for Rwanda, it made us believe again. We always viewed Uganda as a vastly superior to ourselves, we thought we needed Uganda’s help for everything, it was like beating your older brother in a fight, you come of age and gain respect. Museveni later blamed Rwanda for blindsiding him, he wasn’t expecting it, he had spoken to President Bizimungu and he said it was fine to fire on Rwandan troops. That was his mistake, Bizimungu was not commanding the army, Kagame was, Bizimungu had no right to assure him of anything. It made us believe, and within a year and some months the clamour for Paul Kagame to be outright president was too strong to ignore. The issue at stake in Kisangani was lack of respect, Rwandan soldiers in NRA were considered 2nd class to Ankole soldiers, Rwanda was always considered an extension of Uganda, Uganda thought Rwanda owes them and will be subservient. This attitude persists to this day, the only thing that unites Ugandans is arrogance towards Rwanda. Banyarwanda were essential in overthrowing Obote and the Okello’s but what broke our bond was the same problem that broke the Acholi-Langi axis. We have been rustling each other’s cattle for centuries, it wasn’t seen theft but returning stolen goods, we fought wars, defined ourselves in opposition to each other. Then we found ourselves in a position where we were both oppressed, we fought to remove our oppressors but the old enmities come up.
In the end, I think Kagame and Museveni have outgrown each other, Kagame’s mindset and Museveni’s mindsets are very far apart not. Kagame is at every global event, pressing the flesh, making connections, getting investment, trying to plug into the global economy; Museveni is mostly napping at his farm watching his cows. Imagine trying to explain to Museveni what a “wireless router” is or what “Formatting a HD” means? I imagine the blank stare, then some story about the Chwezi dynasty. I hate dynastic succession but I would prefer Muhoozi in power now. At least he knows what we are talking about, at least he uses computers and the internet, at least he understands the challenges of the 21st century. The problem is mindsets, Museveni is closer to Nkurunziza than Kagame, they used to understand each other even in their worst times, not now. So we should see the border back open again soon, the point will have been made, now the story of detained Rwandans is open and embarrassing Museveni we hopefully will see a change. Finally this hare-brained scheme of working with genocidal forces that wish to kill you just to spite your brother, is stupid. Above all, get a vision for Uganda, a war with Rwanda will not unite Uganda and make them forget Bobi Wine. Only a vision will unite Uganda, that is what you need.
Without a vision, the people perish