Rwanda, Uganda; Jaw-Jaw is always better than War-War

Saturday, January 29, 2022

February 27, 2022 marks three years since our southern neighbor Rwanda abruptly and unilaterally shut its borders, initially, ostensibly to upgrade its customs post and transit route. Later, under soft pressure, it became a full-blown political dispute with Rwanda accusing Uganda of hostility towards its citizens resident in Uganda or who frequently travel to Kampala. Rwanda also alleged that Uganda was supporting or conniving with those who have overtime fallen out of favour back home to either distabilise or cause regime change by force of arms, accusations that Uganda vigorously refuted as false, far-fetched or plain malicious as there is no reason let alone verifiable credible evidence provided so far to support the claims. Uganda counter accused Rwanda of espionage, abduction of Rwandans on the streets of Kampala, and spreading misinformation to its own citizens to generate a sense of vulnerability and hence public sympathies.


So, the events of the past week, where Uganda’s Ambassador to the United Nations, and President Yoweri Museveni’s Special envoy Adonia Ayebare, and Commander of the UPDF Land Forces, also Senior Presidential Advisor on Special Operations Muhoozi Keinerugaba separately travelled to Kigali and met President Paul Kagame, should be seen as renewed attempts at thawing hard ice. So jaw-jaw is better than war-war for countries, their economies, people and economies because both Uganda and Rwanda lie down at bottom of world rankings in major indexes.


President Museveni, and Kagame in February 2019 met in Luanda, Angola and signed an agreement to cease hostilities against each other, re-open the common borders to allow free movement of people and trade, refrain from giving counter support to each other’s dissidents, respect mutual sovereignty, ensure fair treatment of respective citizens in their territories, normalize frosty relations, and establish a joint committee to monitor and follow up their implementation. Those efforts have come to naught because the border remains shut for cross movement of goods and people. Therefore, the new hope especially from Uganda is that this renewed round of bilateral engagements will produce the desired results for mutual trust and eventual normalization of relations so that the two peoples behave as true allies.



The new art of the deal ought to end the punitive border closure, especially for Rwandans living across physically being blocked from travelling to Uganda with ease to obtain the basics of everyday life. For three years now social media warriors from Rwanda have been kicking empty trash cans down the paths as Ugandans were measured in response to accusations, and officially declined being dragged into the dog-fight. As is evident the sun rises in the east and in many respects even the economy. The social media warriors may now have to pick up their trash cans and see what is in them.


Just for the record, although relations between Uganda and Rwanda have blown hot and cold over the last twenty years, Uganda has always supported especially the current administration in there, many of whose leadership, business people and ordinary citizens were born, grew up and obtained education in Uganda. In fact, it wouldn’t be beyond imagination to say with some degree of accuracy that some of them could be actually holding Uganda citizenship, own property including land and commercial businesses in Uganda, a reason our leaders should find it necessary to build solid ground for unity, stability, socio-economic transformation and  common prosperity.


Without sounding paternalistic Uganda played roles that are not easy to dismiss in creating and stabilizing Rwanda’s new political dispensation against all odds including [succeeding to] help it to peel itself off the Francophone bloc that was partly blamed for standing by or even complicity in the genocide of 1994. 


By the geography of location, size and volume of economy, Kenya and Tanzania are of Uganda’s first core strategic interests. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan although large countries haven’t until recently been considered of core strategic value. However, knowing that much of Uganda security problems, incidentally including Sir Samuel Baker and Emini Pasha’s intrusion into Uganda, and the subsequent overthrow of Obote I and II governments emanated  from up north, they play important roles in our stability. 


Uganda and Rwanda, share so much historical, geographical and ethnic identities that there ought to be no physical friction, much less, war rumblings, that have flared in the past twenty-eight years since the RPA/F) captured power following the Hutu generated genocide. RPA/F, was grown from Uganda, considering our own historical turbulence, and much of their own since 1923, when the first mass political exodus from feudal Belgian-Rwanda occurred. The repeated chaos of 1959, named, “the wind of destruction”, 1964-74, and the 1994 genocide, was supposed to be brutal learning curves to avoid past mistakes. 

Examining the very generous hospitality including cultural assimilation and integration, education, employment opportunities, and accommodation that Uganda has offered to fugitive Banyarwanda since 1923, we should be ‘brotherly’ neighbours. And without a flare of benevolence, superiority, aggrandizement, or tinges of bitterness from lost opportunities, Ugandans and Rwandans deserve aspirations for joint prosperity.