The warming Uganda-Rwanda diplomatic relations appeared headed for trouble once again after Kigali formally protested to Kampala at the weekend over reports their run away former army commander, Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, is allegedly hiding here.
Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Ms Louise Mushikiwabo, told Daily Monitor Sunday evening that her government had registered its “concern” with officials of Uganda’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs and that of Local Government as well as security chiefs. “The authorities took my concern and said if they get information that is of interest, they will let our government know,” she said, referring to the contested whereabouts of Gen. Nyamwasa.
Up until his flight on Friday after a government retreat in Rubavu, the general was the country’s ambassador to India and previously served as a commander of the Paul Kagame-led Rwanda Patriotic Forces, after the 1994 genocide.
Uganda’s Defence Spokesman, Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, said he is “unaware” if the fugitive is being sheltered in Kampala, as alleged, and referred this newspaper to Mr Sam Kutesa, the Foreign Affairs Minister. “I am trying to seek details from security but we are also looking for him. But why do you want him?” Mr Kutesa said by phone. With Uganda formally denying the general’s presence in the country, Rwanda said it was not yet suspecting any mischief since Kigali had been “assured it would get maximum cooperation”.
Daily Monitor has learnt that Gen. Nyamwasa’s issue, a diplomatic nightmare for Uganda, will form the highlight of discussions at a Joint Permanent Commission meeting due in Kampala, on Wednesday, which will review security and bilateral ties between the two counties.
Asked if Rwanda-Uganda relations had been damaged, Ms Mushikiwabo, who is also spokesperson of the Rwandan government, said: “I don’t think the flight of one person can dent our relationships that have been solid for long.” “Our two countries have much more in common that a fugitive can destroy.”
Peoples of the two countries are bonded in many ways, trade and shared heritage and culture inclusive. For instance, Uganda was the principal backer of the RPF guerrilla movement that brought the current Kigali leadership, and President Paul Kagame to power.
However over the years, political rivalry and suspected bruised ego of some of the leaders in either country threw the bilateral relation into a mess with armies of the two countries fighting one another several times in Kisangani during the 1997-2003 war in Democratic Republic of Congo, which they had both joined as allies.