On allegations of Rwanda’s espionage and Uganda’s undiplomatic diplomats

Saturday September 18 2021
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Author, Asuman Bisiika. PHOTO/FILE

By Asuman Bisiika

I first met Mr Richard Kabonero (then Uganda’s Ambassador to Rwanda) in 2007. He had been told (deceived of course) that I could be helpful on a small semi-diplomatic matter in Rwanda.

I insisted that I was not the man his Kigali contacts had prescribed but he was unrelenting. We got along. The next day, I was going on my ‘irregular disappearances’ from Kampala and he offered me a lift to ‘as farthest as you can get in Western Uganda’.

I spent a night at his country home in Ntungamo talking the night away past zero hour. We parted in Kabale where he was scheduled to attend a cross-border security meeting (and I continued on my way).
 Kabonero is now Uganda’s High Commissioner to Tanzania. But he, like me, seems to always have a keen eye on Kigali. Rwanda can be addictive, you know.
 
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In a recent interview with a French journalist, Mr Museveni was asked about allegations that Rwanda was spying on senior officials in his government. In response,  Mr Museveni’s body language betrayed some elements of surprise. He clearly didn’t expect that question. But he quickly rallied to project contempt over the allegation. Dismissing the futility of espionage on Uganda, he said ‘he keeps his secrets in his head’. Don’t laugh…

There are young cadres who fault Mr Museveni for his moderate stance on the Uganda-Rwanda chilly relationship. I am a member of many WhatsApp groups brimming with young cadres spoiling for a war between Uganda and Rwanda.

I always counsel that a war between Rwanda and Uganda would have unintended consequences (even regime change). The cost of human, financial and material resources for such a war is very dizzying. But thank the gods; the two men running (or ruining) their countries with their ego know that what is at stake is not worth a war.

Amb. Adonia Ayebare and I espouse moderation and diplomatic engagement with Rwanda (an unpopular position by the way). This position invites the risk of some young cadres saying that ‘we’ moderates have been compromised by Kigali (the gods forbid).

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For me, it is wrong for a government official (at whatever level) to portray President Kagame in a manner bordering on indecorum. I would join anyone reproving such a government official.
 
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Mr  Ayebare is Uganda’s Representative to the UN in New York. He is also a presidential envoy. As I write this, he could be the only Ugandan diplomat holding a substantive appointment as an ambassador. 

As a presidential envoy, Adonia is the face of Mr Museveni’s diplomatic effort to defrost the Uganda-Rwanda relationship. Now mbu during his shuttling between Kampala and Kigali, Adonia did not call on Uganda’s High Commission in Kigali; and a leaked chat on a WhatsApp kafunda for Uganda’s diplomats revealed as much.

These accusations are misplaced and lack locus standi in administration and protocol. First of all, the president holds the discretion to carry out diplomacy outside the banal entreaty of the traditional diplomatic communication. And it is not an administrative or protocol requirement for a person carrying a presidential message to pass by the local embassy.  

When the president appoints an envoy, all members of the diplomatic corps are required to support the president’s effort (and the envoy assigned to such an effort).

If Adonia didn’t get time to  call on Uganda’s Embassy in Kigali, Ms Olive Wonekha (Uganda’s High Commissioner in Rwanda) should have called Adonia. For the record, Ms Wonekha was not involved in the undiplomatic accusations.

By the way, if you like listening to rumours, here is one I just picked: there is an impending reshuffle (actually appointment) of ambassadors.

Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of the East African Flagpost. [email protected]

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