Rwanda and Uganda seem to be on the verge of finding a solution to the tensions between them over security and immigration issues.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is expected in Kigali at the extraordinary African Union Summit, and sources say he could meet with his host, President Paul Kagame, to iron out differences.
Last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, who also doubles up as the government spokesperson, appeared to have extended an olive branch to Uganda.
“When something like this happens, we try to talk as leaders to resolve these issues. President Kagame met his Ugandan counterpart in Ethiopia on the sidelines of the African Union Summit and discussed the issues. We want to see these issues resolved because there is no reason Rwandans should continue to be mistreated as we have seen in Uganda,” she said.
“We will not mistreat Ugandans, they are our relatives, we share a lot; we share history, we share blood. Many Ugandans are our relatives. To us, that is very important. We don’t wish to see any Ugandan face problems in Rwanda. I believe there is no problem without a solution. We will continue talking and try to understand each other on these issues,” Ms Mushikiwabo said.
Observers say that a recent move by President Museveni to reshuffle security officers could be intended to address the situation.
The sacking of Gen Kale Kayihura from the position of Inspector General of Police (IGP) and General Henry Tumukunde as Security Minister, have been linked to the worsening relations between Rwanda and Uganda.
The two have been at the centre of deteriorating bilateral ties between Rwanda and Uganda, with Gen Kayihura being accused by sections in Uganda of “being closer” to Kigali, while Gen Tumukunde has been accused many times of supporting Rwandan dissidents.
“By removing the two Generals from the picture, President Museveni could be deliberately moving to address prevailing conditions that have seen relations between the two countries go cold,” a security source said.
In a TV interview, Uganda’s opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye, said the sacking of Gen Kayihura was linked to the strained ties between the two countries, among other things.
“Obviously there have been accusations of Gen Kayihura seemingly either supporting Rwanda or not vigorously doing something about them. I think President Museveni views Kayihura in the prisms of not being loyal to him now as he is to the other side,” Dr Besigye told NTV Uganda.
Asked to respond to Dr Besigye’s remarks, Ms Mushikiwabo declined to comment, saying Rwanda does not meddle in the political affairs of other countries.
“It is not in our habit to get caught up in internal politics of other countries,” Ms Mushikiwabo said. However, the removal of the two men could have paved the way for the two countries to discuss further how to thaw the frosty relations.
“It is expected that President Museveni will be in Kigali for the extraordinary African Union Summit, which could be an opportunity for the two heads of state to discuss further the situation between the two countries,” a source told The EastAfrican.
At least 22 African leaders are expected in Kigali on March 21 for the African Union extraordinary Summit and the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement.
Kigali is yet to officially confirm if President Museveni will be among the 22 but a source privy to the developments said that the Ugandan leader will be in Kigali for the first time since August 2017 when he attended the swearing in of President Kagame.
President Kagame did not attend the last EAC heads of State Summit in Kampala last month.
Kigali accuses Kampala of illegal detention and torture of its citizens and harbouring opposition groups with intent to destabilise Rwanda. Rwanda has communicated its concerns in a formal diplomatic note.
Kampala, however, maintains that those arrested are suspected of engaging in acts of espionage.
President Museveni has in recent weeks indicated that Uganda’s security organs, especially police have been penetrated by foreign elements, perpetrating crime.