Ugandan blogger Maxon Lukyamuzi wrote an Open Letter to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni on the the ongoing standoff between Uganda and Rwanda.
Below is the letter:
Open Letter to President Museveni
I write to you as a Ugandan – Rwandan “Muzukulu” to express my sincere concerns on the Uganda – Rwanda border, the diplomatic standoff and your absolute silence on the matter for the past three years.
Let’s recall that since the inception of National Resistance Army that later grew into a movement, the Rwandan refugees fought alongside you. Their contribution to liberating us is partly what has brought our country this far.
Mr President, in early 2018 when your Rwandan counterpart visited Uganda, you both agreed to clear the confusion and strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries. President Kagame rightly mentioned that better communication, working together more deeply and regularly sharing facts would allow both countries to take better decisions. On this note, let me take this opportunity to bring a few facts to light.
Mr President, we have heard little from our leadership about the standoff while we have heard a lot from Rwanda. Media outlets both local and international (Your recent one-on-one interview with Allan Kasujja from BBC-Africa) have also tried to get answers but your silence is ever louder.
Everyone wants answers; they want leadership. Perhaps you are involved in some intense though informal discussions regarding the impasse. But I don’t want to speculate. I will stick to facts in this letter.
Back in 2017, Rwanda raised a red flag complaining that there are rebel groups that are operating here, planning to attack Rwanda.
Let’s recall that, as Rwanda kept raising concerns of the increasing number of Rwandan dissidents in Uganda, the latter (RNC terrorists) were building an even stronger base, working closely with our intelligence. Not long after, reports of Rwandans being kidnapped in several parts of Uganda started surfacing.
Mr President, hadn’t it been for the evidence they put forth, many people would ignored these reports. But the evidence – including images and videos of tortured Rwandans – was too convincing even to your most loyal supporters.
For most of us who are keen geopolitical observers we immediately picked interest into the matter. We saw how the police intercepted close to 50 Rwandan in a bus in Kikagati as they headed to DRC, through Tanzania.
When interrogated, they disclosed that they were heading for military training, and the ultimate mission was to attack Rwanda. They had been recruited by Rwanda National Congress (RNC), which Rwanda calls a terrorist organization. This happened around December 2017.
At a press conference in March 2018 in Entebbe, you admitted that your intelligence was involved in smuggling the recruits. Yet, you never sanctioned any of the officers involved.
By June 2018, the would-be RNC recruits were let free. They proceeded to DRC but some of them ended up in the hands of the UN force in Congo revealing the involvement of CMI; others were captured and sent to Rwanda where they testified having worked closely with CMI. Abel Kandiho has not been held accountable for this.
In December 2018 RNC and FDLR had a meeting in Kampala, hosted by Hon Mateke. In March 2019 two RNC officials, Charlotte Mukankusi and Eugene Gasana visited you and you confirmed it; so has Tribert Rujugiro who funds the RNC; we hear that he also has a business in Arua and that your brother Salim Saleh is a partner in that business.
This provocation has kept on until today we are seeing similar reports in the media.
Then, there is the issue of the many arrests of Rwandans on allegations of espionage and illegal entry. Some of these people who have spoken to the media and revealed gruesome torture and prolonged illegal detentions in CMI cells. On an honest note, this is another point of provocation against another state. Some of the detained Rwandans are mere children as young as 3 years old and others are as old as 76 years of age. But our security organs have labeled them spies. Really who uses a 70-year-old man as a spy?
Rwanda says her citizens, numbering in the hundreds, are still languishing in Uganda prisons and other ungazetted places operated by our security, CMI and ISO.
Mr President, you have neither denied nor accepted this accusation. You have neither ordered for their trial in courts of law nor ordered for their deportation! Mr President, why?
Although the Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sam Kutesa and the Government Spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo denied the existence of Rwandans in detention facilities, we can’t shy away from saying that their comments are intentionally false. We have seen a pattern of “Whenever Rwanda complains Uganda releases some Rwandans”. Where are they coming from if we don’t have any Rwandans in custody, as our officials say?
Mr President, isn’t this proof that our authorities are covered in a blanket of lies?
I have no doubt that your utmost office is more conversant with what the laws provide for when it comes to arrested individuals. A suspect can’t be held for more than 48 hours before being produced in a court of law; he also has a right to fair trial, and to family and consular visits. Torture is illegal by law. We violated our own constitution and other human rights laws.
And then there was the Luanda Memorandum of Understanding; we all hoped for something better yet we tend to be witnessing a no change in the relations.
After the first meeting of the ad-hoc committee in Kigali on September 16, another one was supposed to take place exactly a month later on October 16. No meeting took place; another date was set, which was also postponed. Hope is fading by the day.
Time has come for you, Mr President, to conscientiously stand up and fix this mess by opening up to the public that elected you into office. At least you owe us an explanation on issues affecting us for all this long.
The issue of trade disruptions; the presence of Rwandan dissidents on our territory; and arrests, harassments and torture of innocent Rwandan nationals are all very pertinent issues; they affect our image in the global arena. But these are issues that can be handled. We have lived with Rwandans in harmony for decades; we can’t afford to live in animosity with them nor should they wish the reverse. Not now not ever.
Our country’s economy has been affected by the ongoing impasse between two countries. Ever since the Rwandan government imposed a travel advisory to her citizens coming to Uganda, the country has lost more than US$ 664 million (Ushs 2.5 trillion) worth of export revenues.
Similarly, I can’t sign off without bringing the most pertinent issue of how our border communities are facing serious setbacks in their livelihoods.
Hundreds of people have lost and are still losing billions and billions of Uganda shillings. For your information, Mr President, our exports have gone down to an extent that Kikuubo in Kampala is affected. We are stuck with produces and merchandise.
Out of desperation to make a living, Ugandan nationals are being shot dead for involving themselves in criminal activities along the Rwandan borders.
Why don’t you take these matters seriously? We are suffering and this is more likely to get worse if not addressed, needless to say.
Mr President, as the two countries head into the second round of talks on the implementation of the Angola MoU, I want to bring to your attention the increased activities of RNC. This organization is well established here in Uganda, with an executive committee headed by one Madam Prossy Boonabana, with Dr. Gideon Rukundo Rugari, as deputy coordinator and Sulah Nuwamanya, its Secretary General.
This committee has commissioners and regional coordinators in areas with majority Ugandan-Banyarwanda population. RNC, through this committee, recently established a Non Governmental Organization called “Self Worth Initiative” (SWI), through which they recruit members and mobilize funds to conduct their activities. I hope this issue will not be swept under the carpet in the planned talks between our two countries.
I strongly believe that you can fix these problems and also openly inform the Wanainchi of the progress, and assure us of peace, stability and development.
Mr President, we will all remember this come 2021.