Musumba: Uganda, Rwanda are like Siamese twins

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Forum for Democratic Change [FDC] strongwoman, Salaamu Musumba, has described Uganda and Rwanda as Siamese twins.

Siamese twins or conjoined twins are two people with the same mother who were born at the same time, with some part of their bodies joined together.

Her description comes at a time the two countries are brawling in a silent cold war sparked off by a long list of issues including the arrest of Rwandans accused of helping Ugandan police commanders to repatriate refugees as well as alleged support to anti-President Paul Kagame dissidents.

But Musumba says when one is decorated as a senior, it means one has been found good enough, ethical and ready for service beyond reproach.

“Our history directly impacts what’s happening right now, Uganda and Rwanda are like Siamese twins,” she was speaking at the NBS “FrontLine” programme last week.

Police spokesperson, AIGP Asan Kasingye, who was appearing on the same show, said the allegations against the arrested police officers aren’t institutional.

“We shouldn’t try to create a storm in a tea-cup.” He said Uganda isn’t an island when it comes to fighting crime.

“We can’t rule out individual mistakes but our institution has really done so many things. Let’s give respect where due.”

He added: Terrorists haven’t excused Uganda simply because it’s a good country, we have intelligence and people do their job. In our struggle, we’re fighting cross-border crime and we can’t work alone.”

But Rwanda has since taken it too personally.

TheEastAfrican reports that the recent arrest and charging in a Uganda military court of top police officers with illegally working with Rwanda to repatriate refugees to their home country is the most open flare-up in the tense relations between Kampala and Rwanda.

This is despite relations seemingly having improved when both Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame made several state visits in 2011. Both presidents recently attended the Head of State Dialogue at the Africa Global Business Forum in Dubai, UAE on November 1.

In 2015, Kampala and Kigali reached an understanding with Tel Aviv to repatriate Eritrean refugees from Israel to Uganda and Rwanda for resettlement.

Mediated by Israel’s national intelligence agency Mossad, the agreement gave each country a quota of refugees to host.

Soon after, Uganda’s Minister for Regional Co-operation, Philemon Mateke, summoned Rwanda’s High Commissioner in Kampala, Frank Mugambagye, and reportedly lodged a complaint that Kigali was resettling its quota of refugees in Uganda.

Rwanda suggested that the two countries set up a joint verification committee to handle these allegations. However, Uganda did not follow up on the matter, according to an official privy to the disagreement.

Rwanda is said to have also raised several concerns, many of which Kigali officially and informally communicated to Kampala. One such concern was appointments of public officials thought to be hostile to Rwanda.

For example, in July 2016, when Kampala appointed Philemon Mateke Minister for Regional Co-operation, Kigali raised concerns with Kampala over the appointment.

In March this year, Uganda moved its long-serving High Commissioner in Rwanda, Richard Kabonero to Tanzania. He is said to have good relations with Kigali.

It is alleged that many Ugandan officials perceived to have good relations with Rwanda were removed from their posts and replaced with others considered hostile to Kigali.

One such move was the replacement of Brig Ronald Balya as director-general of Internal Security Organisation (ISO) with Brig Francis Kaka. Brig Kaka is known to be close to President Museveni’s younger brother, Gen Salim Saleh, with whom Kigali is uncomfortable.

Tensions were yet again strained when the brash Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde, who had been at loggerheads with Kampala; was rehabilitated and appointed Minister of Security.

On his first official visit to Kigali, he failed to meet his counterparts. Brig Abel Kandiho, whom Rwanda claims is hostile to Kigali, was appointed Chief of Military Intelligence.

For many officials in Kigali, it is not surprising that the trio of Kaka, Tumukunde and Kandiho are behind the current manhunt for Ugandan police officers accused of collaborating with Rwandan intelligence to kidnap and illegally repatriate Rwandan dissidents in Uganda.

Diplomatic sources say the first indication that it was difficult for the two nations to bury the hatchet came in July 2012, when the daughter of deceased Rwandan intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya, Portia Mbabazi Karegeya, who was living in exile in South Africa came to Uganda.

On arriving at Entebbe Airport, immigration officials refused her entry because Rwanda had cancelled her passport.

Once inside Uganda, Ms Karegeya got a Ugandan passport and was helped by government officials to get a visa to Canada.

Some Ugandan officials felt the move was a snub to Rwanda. When Ms Karegeya tried to fly out to Canada, immigration officials denied her exit because some Ugandan officials had cancelled her new passport.

In 2013, Rwandan students escaped from Kigali to Old Kampala Police Station, where they claimed to be seeking asylum as Rwanda was forcing them to repeat Senior Six.

Ugandan officials contacted the Rwanda government to verify the claim and concluded it did not merit refugee status. They worked with the Rwandan High Commission in Kampala to arrange for the students to be taken back to Kigali.

On the night before the students were to travel back to Kigali, the students changed their story and claimed they ran away because the government was trying to forcefully recruit them into the Congolese rebel group called M23.

Additional reporting by The EastAfrican