By Ofwono Opondo
Uganda and Rwanda have had so much contact spanning centuries, the greater part under colonialism, backwardness, and mass murders by governments we jointly stopped for which each side should be grateful for their respective roles. But following so much opprobrium accompanied by pettiness flowing under the bridge from across Uganda’s southern border in the last one month, it is prudent that the renewed frostiness is put into perspective. Not so much that some of the accusations, false and outlandish as they are deserve response, but rather, to enlighten the audience of the ideological clarity of Uganda’s present leadership, more so, that of President Yoweri Museveni, who has been a lead player for half a century.
Pelting raw insults at President Museveni, with plenty of good public record doesn’t really add much value as his opponents in Uganda have sadly found out. Instead, it simply proves that the flamethrower is a dimwit.
It appears, however, that having had an almost free ride of espionage, the tom-toms, began to get caught nakedly in their mischief, and having been ignored, probably explains the raw anger and unrestrained outbursts in the media. The cries of ‘our citizens’ being illegally arrested, unlawfully detained, tortured or deported, some true, most false, could have been raised through the known and well-established bilateral and diplomatic channels that fraternal and neighborly governments ordinarily use. Some of the cases being mentioned posed as, and obtained refugee status only to be caught in mischief.
The centuries-old relations among neighbouring African peoples will not be easily broken however hostile their governments may be against each other, and Uganda has been a good host where many feel home.
Uganda is very proud to host other African peoples either running away from danger or those who investment and other lawful opportunities here, the reason, we believe integration provides socio-economic transformation, strategic security and survival. President Museveni’s latest missive to the southern neighbour while short was deep and insightful, warranting no further public explanation.
To accuse Uganda’s present political dispensation and President Museveni, of harbouring elements that caused genocide in Rwanda, or ‘terrorists’ who supposedly seek to use indiscriminate violence against countries, let alone a fraternal neighbour, is to say the least, down-right empty, false and an open insult. Terrorism is cowardly, and Museveni isn’t known to be such person.
There is no dispute that Uganda, and President Museveni in particular, have been the most forthright and open in bolstering peace through negotiations in this region, except Tanzania where peace and stability have been a given since independence over five decades ago. It was President Museveni who skillfully balanced the political rhythm in Kenya between Mwai Kibaki and Rail Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, and stood firm against the charlatans who sought to exploit the power and mandate of the International Criminal Court.
Museveni has been the lead negotiator in Burundi, and evidence shows there is some success there, including the admission of Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan into the EAC.
It is necessary to remind especially the young generation Uganda political leadership, even in its nascent stage in 1986, when still appeared weak, decided to support and have the armed combatants of the glorious African National Congress (ANC), Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), relocated to Kaweweta, Nakaseke district in Uganda. At that time the ANC, MK, and most of their leaders including Nelson Mandela had been designated by the global powers US and UK, as ‘terrorists’. Their refugee and training camps in Southern African countries had either been shut down or under threat.
Additionally, the NRM leadership continued to publicly host the political and diplomatic missions of the South West African Peoples Organisation (SWAPO-Namibia) of Sam Nujoma, and that of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) then led by Yasser Arafat. Much later, after help end the 1994 Rwanda genocide against a combination of the French and their allies under Opération Turquoise that provided a safe route for genocidaires to escape into Zaire, Uganda openly supported Mobutu Ssese Seko’s removal. Since then Uganda has championed the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), as a platform for negotiated settlement in the region.
Simultaneously, while facing multiple armed rebel groups including the LRA, one of the most vicious so far, and supported by Sudan, Uganda officially sided with the South Sudan Liberation Movement and its army (SPLM/A) then led by John Garang.
During this episode, Uganda directly confronted a much larger northern neighbour, the Sudan through political, diplomatic and military fronts including at the AU, UN, and never employed terrorism as method of war. The modernization of Dar es Salaam port (1457km) shortens Kigali’s distance, compared to Mombasa via Kampala (1647km), by road, however, there are broader strategic issues in the Horn of Africa, and East Africa doesn’t need distraction with pettiness of stopping tomatoes, potatoes, beans, milk, and funeral parties from crossing common borders. The posture of the US, China, EU, Russia, and India, in an ineffectual UN system poses potential threats that Africans should collectively be dealing with.