Kigali-Kampala Tiff: President Kagame accuses Ugandan Authorities of “Hunting Down” Rwandans, Says He No Longer Talk to President Museveni

    Rwandan President, Paul Kagame has accused Ugandan authorities of “hunting down” his countrymen, saying this was the major reason for the breakdown of bilateral relations between the two neighbouring countries.

    “We have had situations where Rwandans suffer or are not allowed to go to Uganda to do their business normally. The establishment in Uganda simply hunts down Rwandans wherever they find them,” said Kagame.

    “They have all kinds of pretexts they put forth; talking about insecurity that is caused by Rwandans, and we have raised issues around that which amount to persecution rather than anything originating from Rwandans that go to Uganda,” Kagame told Al Jazeera TV on Sunday night.

    “But when Ugandans come to Rwanda, they have not experienced the same hardships as Rwandans do when they go to Uganda,” he added.

    Kagame’s remarks come against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the two countries.

    Both countries have traded counter accusations of supporting rival armed movements in the region.

    Failed talks

    In 2020, Kagame and his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni, met at the Katuna/Gatuna border at the fourth quadripartite summit to attempt to resolve the soured diplomatic issues between the two neighbouring states.

    In September, 2021, Uganda invited Rwanda for an ad-hoc meeting to discuss and verify the implementation of an agreement that both countries signed in 2019 to put an end to their long standing bilateral tensions, but Rwanda said there was “No meeting for now.”

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    The letter was sent by Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Gen. Jeje Odongo and was received by his Rwandan counterpart, Vincent Biruta.

    “No meeting is planned for now, but Rwanda remains open to follow-up dialogue on the issues raised,” said Biruta.

    Rwanda closed her borders with Uganda in February 2019, and also advised its citizens against travelling to Uganda, saying the Kampala government cannot guarantee their safety.

    At the Katuna/Gatuna border in 2020, Museveni and Kagame signed an extradition treaty which constituted the legal framework to handle cases of justice including nationals engaged in subversive activities in either country.

    Shooting of Ugandans

    Kagame has for long sought to attribute the collapse of the two countries’ relations to Uganda.

    On his part, Museveni accused Rwanda of aggressive espionage acts meant to destabilise Uganda, saying spies arrested in Uganda would not be handed over to Kigali.

    While Kagame argues that Ugandans in Rwanda are treated fairly, several Ugandan nationals who attempted to cross into and out of Rwanda through the porous borders have been shot dead by Rwandan security forces.

    Asked whether the countries’ row will have a solution, Kagame observed: “There are still a number of issues that need to be resolved. We are searching for the solution to the problems that still exist.”

    He added: “We understand the root cause. Therefore, we should be able to find the way forward, better understanding than we have had in the past.We have had opportunities to discuss some of these problems openly.”

    Asked by an Al Jazeera reporter why he has refused to reopen the border, Kagame replied that the big question should be what led to the it’s closure.

    “The big part of the border is closed. Some people say, just open the border, and do trade which everyone wants in the whole region. For us, the problem is, what actually led to the closure of the border that needs to be answered before the border is open,” he said.

    There has been a reported spike in prices and shortage of goods in Rwanda since the border closure. Ugandan goods are not allowed on the Rwandan market.

    Tens of thousands of Rwandans who were studying in Uganda forfeited their education after the border closure.

    MUSEVENI – KAGAME COMMUNICATION

    Asked whether he communicates with President Museveni, Kagame said:  “We used to talk to one another, but of late, it has more or less stopped.”

    “And until these issues are resolved, then talking is not just talking for the sake of it,” he emphasised.

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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