Despite Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame expressing a "willingness" to dialogue to resolve the ongoing situation between their two countries, it just seems to get worse.
In April, more than 40 Rwandans were arrested in the western district of Kasese. Although they were found to be in possession of valid Rwandan national identification cards, they did not have permission to enter Uganda. The group was later released and sent back to Rwanda.
This latest act by Uganda is seen by many as an act of provocation by Uganda towards Rwanda.
Fresh Arrests Targeting Rwandans
Uganda has once again targeted Rwandans living within its borders in a fresh round of arrests. Reports from Kampala indicate that some 40 Rwandan nationals were arrested in the Kampala suburb of Kibuye in a joint operation conducted by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and Uganda Police.
According to Uganda’s Daily Monitor, the operation was conducted at an unidentified church located on the first floor of Joinus building in Kibuye, a suburb along Entebbe Road, which reportedly has a membership of only Rwandan citizens. Security cordoned off the place as the group held a meeting and ordered them out into a waiting van.
Deputy army spokesman, Lt. Col. Deo Akiiki, who spoke to us on phone confirmed that "some Rwandans" were in their custody following the operation that targeted a church in one of the city's suburbs. While he declined to divulge details about the Rwandans in their custody and whether their rights were being upheld, he confirmed that the operation was set to continue.
The Minister of State in charge of East African Community Ambassador Olivier Nduhungirehe has however stated that the Rwandan government is following up on the latest arrests of Rwandans.
We are yet to get enough information. The High Commission is following the case with Ugandan authorities,” Nduhungirehe said.
Rwanda’s High Commissioner in Uganda, Frank Mugambage wrote to Uganda's Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemning the arrests and terming the operation as ‘ridiculous.’ He contends that the arbitrary arrests of Rwandan citizens are a continuation of what has been happening.
Arbitrary arrests of Rwandans in Uganda are now a common occurrence where thousands have been arrested over the past one year with no access to basic rights like consular services, legal counsel or familial visits”, he said.
Uganda's Alleged Interference
It is on record that Rwanda has previously accused the Ugandan government of backing rebel groups trying to undermine President Kagame's government and the country's stability. Notably, it has singled out CMI for facilitating groups fighting the Rwandan government mainly the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) led by Kayumba Nyamwasa.
The alleged interference by Uganda has led to relations between the two countries deteriorating over the last two years.
Rwanda has always dismissed allegations by Ugandan authorities that those arrested are Rwandan spies. Rwanda maintains that they are ordinary citizens going about their businesses in Uganda. Furthermore that Rwandan citizens are specifically targeted by security operatives who either compel them to join rebel groups or lock them up for declining to do so.
We want them to tell us what the whole thing is all about because it is ridiculous that a whole church can be arrested and it is said that they are spies,” Commissioner Mugambage notes.
The Commissioner has indicated that his office is doing its utmost best to follow up on those arrested but so far he has been stonewalled by the Ugandan authorities. He explained how Ugandan security operatives have arrested many Rwandese citizens in Uganda torturing and shuffling them in various detention camps or leaving them to languish without trial only to later dump them at the Rwandan border.
Is there a possibility of an amicable relationship?
Uganda and Rwanda have had frosty relations with both sides trading accusations against each other. Last month when President Museveni and President Paul Kagame met in Angola, they had agreed to dialogue in a bid to resolve the issues between their two countries. Despite no dates having been set for further dialogue, could Uganda's latest move kill the talks even before they begin? or is there still a glimmer of hope for restoring amicable relations?
Many local residents in both countries argue that the standoff between the two countries is causing them untold suffering as it is impossible for them to trade freely. They contend that as long as arrests are made on either side of the border, mutual cooperation will remain elusive. So where do they go from here on out?
Header Image Credit: Edge