Civil servants barred from commenting on Uganda-Rwanda relations

Henry Okello Oryem, the State Minister for International Affairs.

Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been stopped from discussing or making public statements on the relationship between Uganda and Rwanda to avoid derailing the ongoing process to patch the strained relations between the two countries.

 The State Minister for International Affairs, Mr Okello Oryem told MPs on the Parliamentary Committee of Foreign Affairs that  staff members at the ministry have been restricted from commenting on the matter, just to be on a safe side for fear of making ‘provocative statements’ that could jeopardise the healing process.

“I have been cautioned not to discuss the matter here or with anybody else, we are still in the process and I wouldn’t want to discuss those issues here. We have also stopped our staff from commenting on that subject matter as this may derail the whole process,” Mr Oryem said.

 Mr Oryem, with a delegation of senior officials from the ministry were presenting their budget framework paper for the financial year 2020/21.

Mr Oryem’s said that the ministry has been tight-lipped on the case where a Ugandan software developer who went missing in Kigali, Rwanda, in December last year.

 Peter Ivan Egesa, 32, reportedly went missing at the beginning of last month. A search by his relatives and employers has hit a dead end.

The ministry’s spokesperson, Mr Moses Kasujja, last week failed to respond to questions on what efforts the ministry had undertaken to trace Mr Egesa.

Mr Kasujja promised to issue a press statement but has since failed to do so. Mr Egesa’s family said they had reported the matter earlier this month but no progress had been made so far.

This comes at a time when the two countries are trying to mend their strained relationship that saw Rwanda close its frontiers with Uganda at Gatuna border post last year.

In an attempt to ease the tension between the two countries, Uganda which seems to be at the forefront in the reconciliatory process released nine Rwandan nationals last week.

Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa told the media at a joint press conference with the Rwandan High Commissioner to Uganda, Maj Gen Frank Mugambage, that Uganda expects Rwanda to “reciprocate” the favour.

 Mr Kutesa, however, noted that the withdrawal of the charges against the suspects did not mean that they had been acquitted because Uganda has the evidence against them. He said the move was a political decision.

 This decision, however, stirred mixed reactions as some people criticized the Ugandan government for bowing to Rwanda's blackmail.

Selfworth Initiative, a human rights body, at the weekend issued a statement protesting the move to withdraw charges against the nine Rwandan suspects.

Ms Prossy Boonabana, the initiative’s executive director said they wanted the trial to continue in order for the Rwandan refugees who were kidnapped to get justice.