Rwanda and Uganda aren’t going to war. Period

By Didas Gasana

Today was an action-packed day. To sum it up, citizens interested in global politics were hooked onto different corners of the world- from what would come from the UN Security Council vote on Jerusalem as Israeli’s capital (14 voted against, 1 US vote in favor and thus a veto) to South Africa’s ANC vote on the future party leader touted to replace Jacob Zuma in 2019 polls (Cyril Ramphosa triumphed by 180 votes among a 4700-vote count).

In Uganda, stakes were high as an NRM legislator tabled a private bill seeking constitutional amendment to article 102 (B) of Uganda’s constitution, effectively allowing incumbent Yoweri Museveni to run for another or more terms come 2021. In Arusha, there was drama over electing the new East African Legislative Assembly Speaker- a contest pitying Rwanda’s Martin Ngoga against a Tanzanian and a Burundian candidate. As Brexit drama rages on; so is Russian conspiracy in the US elections that seems to take new twists day in, day out.

None of those, however, struck me as a question from a friend stationed at International Crisis Group HQs, today, on the possibility of a war between Rwanda and Uganda. I had ignored this idle talk of war so much so that I ignored or just laughed when friends and acquittances asked me about a report from a Kigali- based tabloid that I (and some of my fellow exiled journalists) have relocated to Kampala- Uganda, in preparations of fighting Rwanda. Not until I realize this idle talk is permeating some sections of the international community that I decided to share my take.

Those thinking of a Uganda-Rwanda war will be disappointed. My take is that it is a technological revolution that has impacted on the immediacy and intensity with which news is shared but this excitement will be short lived. The tempers are not even a third of what they were on October 14, 2001, when The Monitor, quoting “impeccable sources”, ran a cover story entitled “Rwanda prepares for war – Uganda”, which suggested fears within the Ugandan military and security establishments that led President Yoweri Museveni to write to UK Overseas Secretary, Claire Short, asking to increase Uganda’s military expenditure beyond 1.9% of her GDP; ie, from US$133 to US$252. All this in anticipation of a full- fledged with Rwanda. He had experienced what happened in Kisangani, DRC, two years earlier.

Then, the thinking was that there were Rwandan undercover agents and Ugandan dissidents recruited and undergoing training in Rwanda and DRC to overthrow President Museveni’s government.

While Rwanda spokesperson Joseph Bideri was dismissing Uganda’s claims and fears as “disgraceful and primitive”, President Museveni was building an international coalition to back Uganda’s position in case of an eventual fallout. Yet the two didn’t go to war then. And yet none of these things are happening now. No trade of words is underway at a prominent level either. There is neither any bee-hive activity including defections- the likes of Samson Mande and Anthony Kyakabale on one hand and Majors Alphosnse Furuma and co on the other hand. There is neither any mention of something close to PRA, to which Gen David Tinyefuza, then, alluded to as “circumstantial evidence” in justifying President Museveni’s letter to Claire Short.

Things were so bad then that ahead of the 2001 polls, Uganda declared Rwanda a “hostile country”. Then Defense Minister Amama Mbabazi said that Ugandan intelligence has evidence that the Rwandan government gave money to Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye who run against incumbent Museveni. No such serious threats are being talked about, at least in the open.

There is no doubt that Rwanda- Uganda relations are icy. No doubt about that. But ice is not elastic. To think of a war just because of what is happening now would be an insult to human intelligence.

In my opinion, M7 is simply putting his house to order. The refugee’s abductors fade in comparison to 10 Rwandans arrested in Kampala, then, for terrorism activities. Remember, the genesis of this purge was the arrest of Mbusa Nyamwisi at Entebbe airport, in a stand-off that pitted Ugandan Police against the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence and the Special Forces Command- a scuffle that led into an inquiry by president Museveni which later exposed the rot that is within the Uganda police Force. It was then that President Museveni got to know the rot within his police force, so much so, that he forced his Police Chief Kale Kaihura to leave the high-level meeting he (Museveni) was presiding over. The rest is history. After the Entebbe meet, CMI were instructed to act. Premier victims being Senior Commissioner of Police Joel Aguma, Senior Superintendent of Police Nixon Agasirwe and five others, including an alleged Rwandan operative Rene Rutagungira. In a nutshell, President Museveni is running his house like a parent should. No President or a Parent would allow neighbors to mess his country/house and retire to bed. And, unless President Kagame does something exceedingly witless now or tomorrow, there ain’t be any war soon. Period.