Uganda & Rwanda
Rwanda and Uganda back in bed

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Rwandan diplomacy in winds of change 

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afrol News, 7 November - Successful peace talks between Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Uganda President Yoweri Museveni in London led to reconciliation between the inseparable couple. Both agreed to stop supporting dissident groups of the other country.

Presdidents Kagame (left) and Museveni friends againIn a joint statement by Kagame and Museveni after the London summit, they assured they would no longer tolerate rebels from either country using the other to destabilise relations. Uganda also promised the immediate release of a Rwandan officer, who allegedly had been abducted inside Uganda yesterday.

Tension has been high between the two brother states since Ugandan and Rwandan troops clashed in the Congolese city of Kisangani in 1999, after having sent a joint force to Congo Kinshasa in August 1998. Uganda branded Rwanda "a hostile country" and both nations started to host each other's dissident groups. There has been repeated talk of a possible war.

The Rwandan President however took the initiative to meet his old friend and tutor, Museveni, in London, after a letter from Museveni requesting British military aid in order to repulse a possible Rwandan invasion had leaked out. 

Museveni and Kagame travelled to London on Monday morning to have a peace meeting under the facilitation of the British Government and to attend talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The British Overseas Development Minister Clare Short chaired the Rwandan-Ugandan summit. 

After the six-hour meeting the two presidents affirmed their country's desire to re-establish good relations. "I don't believe in preserving problems, I believe in preserving peace," Museveni said in a BBC interview on Wednesday. "I am disappointed that we have had a problem with Uganda," Kagame followed up. "Why should we have problems at all?" Museveni told the BBC that a joint Rwanda-Ugandan commission would review the reasons for the underlying tensions and try to solve them. 

Key issues addressed in the meeting were Ugandan accusations that Rwanda is harbouring dissidents planning to overthrow President Museveni's government. Rwanda on the other hand claimed Uganda was massing troops at the Rwandan border. The Rwandan government also was provoked by the recent promotion by President Museveni of Major General James Kazini to take overall charge of the army. 

Kazini had been singled out by Rwanda as the responsible for the Rwandan-Ugandan clashes in Kisangani. This was partly confirmed by a UN report, which also claimed that Kazini had enriched himself massively through the occupation of the mineral rich northeastern part of Congo.

Museveni made no mention of Kazini's future after the London peace talks, indicating he will remain chief of the Ugandan army. Although the Ugandan Ministry of Defence is seeking to downplay Kazini's importance, his continuing high profile does not augur well for the future military cooperation between the two countries, as Kazini will not obtain confidence in Kigali.

The personal relationship between Rwandan Kagame and Ugandan Museveni goes way back. They fought together before coming to power. After becoming President, Museveni supported Kagame's fight against the genocidal Rwandan regime. Threatened by radical Hutus sheltered by the Congolese government, Uganda joined Rwanda in attacking Congo Kinshasa. 

The "break-up of the relation" was therefore both unexpected and nasty. Disputes over business interests and personal rivalry between Rwandan and Ugandan troops occupying Congo ended up in armed clashes. The last two years, relations became sour, both countries' leaders blaming each other for the hostilities.

Last months saw a rise in tensions as there talks of a possible war were mounting. The massing of troops and ever more border incidents rapidly produced its own dynamic. However, popular support was not to be gained by a possible war between brothers. 

An editorial commentary in the independent Ugandan newspaper 'The Monitor' last week described why the two presidents had to come to an agreement. "The goodwill from the majority of people in both countries is immense," the paper said. 

A border war of Ethiopian-Eritrean scale would be pointless. "There would be neither victor nor vanquished; we would all perish like fools", 'The Monitor' concluded. Museveni and Kagame listened - finally.

Sources: Rwandan govt., BBC and afrol archives


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