By David Himbara
In 2001, the UK government played a key role in averting a threatened war between Rwanda and Uganda. That was eighteen years ago. At the time, Rwanda and Uganda were on the brink of a senseless war.
On November 6, 2001, the UK effort led by Claire Short, the international development minister, brokered a truce in which Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame stepped back from the cliff. I remember that long day in London — at the time I was working as Principal Private Secretary to Kagame.
Museveni and Kagame emerged from six hours of the London talks sounding more reasonable than when they arrived. Both promised not to shelter or encourage their respective rebels — they were accusing each other of doing that. Both said they were anxious for peace, especially since their amies had already fought two vicious wars in Kisangani, effectively destroying the Congolese city, killing, wounding, and dislocating thousands of its residents.
At the London meeting, the mood sharply changed. It now felt like a family gathering — many of the Rwandans at the meeting, including Kagame, had after all lived most of their lives in Uganda before 1994.
The London meeting felt like settling a family feud. Fast forward to 2019. Kagame closed the common border with Uganda using the rhetoric of 2001.
Kagame claimed that Uganda was supporting Rwandan rebels to remove him from power. Kagame is of course, ignoring the fact that he had turned Uganda into his hunting ground in which he kidnapped, disappeared, and even killed Rwandans. Armies are once again at the border, a replay of 2001. History is repeating itself. The question then is — who will play Claire Short in 2019?