By Frank Kamuntu
Heads of State from Angola, Burundi, DR Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda will in the coming days hold a summit virtually, to sort most regional challenges officials with insight to the matter say.
The meeting which was convened by the DR Congo President Félix Tshisekedi was initially planned to be held in the border town of Goma and attended physically by Heads of State of the five countries.
However, according to reports, the decision was reached to hold the meeting virtually in light of the COVID-19 pandemic which has among other things seen land borders across the region closed.
The date of the virtual meeting is yet to be set.
While the summit’s agenda is not yet clear, the key issues of common interest include regional stability, security, and countering terrorism.
Angola and DR Congo are also involved as mediators in restoring warm ties between Rwanda and Uganda through the Ad Hoc Commission on the Implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding signed in Luanda in 2019.
Genesis of ties
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.