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Rwanda-Uganda ties still ‘not where they should be’

Rwanda says Ugandan authorities have failed to address the issues affecting their bilateral ties as relations between the two neighbours remain frosty.

The issues that Rwanda wants addressed include restrictions of its citizens crossing into Uganda despite both countries agreeing to free movement of people and goods under the provisions of the East Africa Community Common Market Protocol.

Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Richard Sezibera said that relations between the two states are not “where we want them to be.”

“There are a number of problems in existence, including Rwandans who travel to Uganda and encounter challenges.

These challenges are a result of people in Uganda, who wish to destabilise Rwanda. Some of our business people who wish to transport their goods through Uganda encounter challenges. These issues don’t emanate from us. They come from somewhere else,” he said.

Dr Sezibera also spoke about the recent visit by Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa to Rwanda, saying that he delivered a response from President Yoweri Museveni to President Paul Kagame regarding the “problems” Kigali raised with Kampala.

However, he did not give details about the response, saying only that the issues are yet to be addressed.

Concerns

Rwanda has written at least two diplomatic notes to Uganda since October last year, when cracks first began to appear.

The notes highlighted concerns including the “arbitrary arrest and torture of Rwandans in Uganda,” and allegations that Uganda hosted “negative groups” plotting to destabilise Rwanda.

Uganda accused Kigali of deploying spies in the country and infiltrating security organs. A meeting between President Museveni and President Kagame in Entebbe in March did little to defuse tensions between the two countries.

Early this month, Uganda’s Minister of Relief and Disaster Preparedness Hillary Onek surprised legislators when he referred to Rwanda as “a cup of porridge that is cold on top but too hot inside,” during a session of the East African Legislative Assembly.

“These countries create a perception that they are peaceful yet their people are fleeing,” he added.

His comments were backed by Musa Ecweru, the State Minister of Relief and Disaster Preparedness, who alleged that Uganda hosts many Rwandans disguised as refugees.

“Most of them came when the present RPF government was in power. They are running away from the system that is in Kigali now,” Mr Ecweru told EALA members.

Rwanda did not take the comments lightly and pledged to address them with the Ugandan government.

Formal communication

State Minister of Foreign Affairs in charge of the East African Community Affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe said the government was yet to receive formal communication from Kampala regarding Rwandan refugees.

“We are going to deal directly with the Ugandan government about the statements made by the ministers. Such statements are unacceptable,” said Mr Nduhungirehe.

Rwanda has in the past accused Uganda of hosting rebels disguised as refugees who are opposed to President Kagame’s government.

Rwandans lost refugee status after a cessation clause by the UN elapsed on December 31, 2017, and are expected to return to the country and be integrated into the community.

After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, over 3.4 million Rwandan refugees returned home, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) and another 89,000 have done so since 2009.

The Cessation Clause for Rwandan refugees was invoked after the UNHCR admitted that fundamental changes had taken place in Rwanda, and that circumstances that led to the massive flight of citizens no longer existed.

However, many refugees have opposed this clause, preferring to stay in their host countries, mostly in the neighbouring countries of DR Congo, Uganda, Burundi and Zambia.

By The Eastafrican

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