Polishing Relations: Rwanda Announces Opening Dates For Gatuna Border After Museveni Firing Abel Kandiho From CMI

Polishing Relations: Rwanda Announces Opening Dates For Gatuna Border After Museveni Firing Abel Kandiho From CMI

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By Spy Uganda 

In the latest moves to resolve the impasse between Uganda and Rwanda, Kigali has announced Monday, January 31, 2022, as the day the Gatuna One Stop Border Post will reopen, nearly three years after it was closed on February 28, 2019.

These come days after the Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba a Senior Presidential Adviser on Special Operations and Commander of Land Forces of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), visited Rwanda on 22nd January 2022, where he met President Paul Kagame in Kigali to discuss bilateral ties between the two countries which had deteriorated further since the 4th Quadripartite Summit held at Gatuna/Katuna on February 21, 2020.

According to sources, President Kagame and Gen. Muhoozi agreed to take practical steps towards resolving issues that have caused tensions between Rwanda and Uganda over the last five or so years.

The reopening of the border, which Rwanda said closed to prevent more Rwandans from going to Uganda, for their own safety, was announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation in the statement issued in the wee hours of Friday, January 28.

Read Full Statement Below 

“Following the visit to Rwanda of Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Senior Presidential Adviser on Special Operations and Commander of Land Forces of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) on 22nd January 2022, the Government of Rwanda has taken note that there is a process to solve issues raised by Rwanda, as well as commitments made by the Government of Uganda to address remaining obstacles.”

“In this regard and in line with the communique of the 4th Quadripartite Summit held at Gatuna/Katuna on 21″ February 2020, the Government of Rwanda wishes to inform the public that the Gatuna border post between Rwanda and Uganda will be re-opened from 31st January 2022.”

“As it is the case for other land border posts in the country, health authorities of Rwanda and Uganda will work together to put in place necessary measures to facilitate movement in the context of COVID-19.”

“The Government of Rwanda remains committed to ongoing efforts to resolve pending issues between Rwanda and Uganda and believes that today’s announcement will contribute positively to the speedy normalization of relations between the two countries.”

The move to reopen the border, which has been among the key issues at the centre of relations between the two countries, has sent a strong signal that the neighbours could be moving towards resolving the issues that have crippled relations in recent years.

Meanwhile, these come few days after Gen Yoweri Museveni transferred some of the individuals accused by Rwanda of being behind acts that target innocent Rwandans in Uganda, notably Maj. Gen. Abel Kandiho, the former head of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).

Maj. Gen Kandiho was removed from his position and posted to South Sudan as a special envoy and replaced by Maj Gen James Birungi at CMI. He had been accused by Rwanda for being behind the witch-hunt targeting Rwandans inside Uganda, arbitrarily arresting them on accusations of espionage and detaining them incommunicado. He was also accused of working with subversive groups looking to destabilise Rwanda.

Best Friends Turn Into Best Enemies 

When a young Yoweri Museveni launched his rebellion to seize Uganda’s presidency in 1981, he found a vital ally in an exiled Rwandan soldier named Paul Kagame. The former guerilla leaders have been presidents of their respective countries for 33 and 19 years now, but their relationship has soured since those early days during Uganda’s Bush War.

Tensions escalated sharply earlier last year, as both men hurled accusations of sabotage, and Rwanda sealed its border with Uganda, halting trade and issuing a travel advisory. In August 2019, Kagame and Museveni met in Luanda, Angola to sign a memorandum of understanding meant to end their standoff and repair relations.

The brinkmanship between Rwanda and Uganda has already taken an economic toll. The Ugandan Ministry of Trade recorded millions of dollars in losses, resulting from the border closure, and accused the Rwandan government of effectively imposing a trade embargo.

The current showdown may be the worst in years. In addition to the border closure, Museveni and Kagame have taken to jousting in highly public arenas. It all began in February 2019, when Ugandan authorities claimed that “external forces” were plotting to overthrow Museveni, and seemed to point a finger at Rwanda. Rwandan diplomats in turn asserted that Uganda had detained, tortured and illegally deported Rwandan citizens and sheltered dissidents.

In March 2020, Kagame used an annual leadership retreat in Rwanda to lob his own incendiary allegations against Museveni, claiming that he has been trying to topple him for the past two decades and declared, “No one can bring me to my knees.”

Not to be outdone, Museveni responded. “Those who want to destabilize our country do not know our capacity,” he said while commissioning factories outside of Kampala. “Once we mobilize, you can’t survive.” Months later, in July 2019, police in Uganda arrested 40 Rwandans living in the country. The intelligence services cited unspecified security concerns.

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