By Ben Muneza
Of The East African
A deal to defuse tension between Uganda and Rwanda lies in the hands of presidents of the two countries, if sentiments of negotiators are anything to go by.
Representatives of the two countries who have attended past meetings have requested for time to consult their presidents.
Ugandans, Rwandans and the rest of the region will have to wait until the two heads of state meet—possibly at the next East African Community Heads of State Summit likely to take place in February 2020, just a month to the first anniversary of Rwanda-Uganda border closure.
In August, Angola’s President Joao Lourenco brokered a deal between Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame in Luanda, setting in motion meetings between senior officials from the two feuding countries.
A first meeting that both sides described as “good” took place in Kigali on September 16, but the follow-on meeting did not materialise, as Uganda failed to convene one within the 30-day period that had been agreed.
Another attempt failed last month after Kigali requested a deferral. According to Rwanda’s State Minister East Africa Community Affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe, who led the Kigali delegation to the talks, Uganda needs to admit presence of groups opposed to Rwanda on its territory, then withdraw it support.
But Uganda insists it does not know existence of such groups and adds that its security agencies have never targeted innocent Rwandans.
However, Kampala acknowledges there are many Rwandan refugees and legitimate business community. Observers said it all points to things getting better, after President Paul Kagame, while speaking in Doha, termed the disagreement between the two countries a “quarrel in a family.”
He added the two countries are talking, and ruled out chances of an armed conflict, emphasising any challenge can be discussed and resolved.
Many commentators say the on and off squabbles between Uganda and Rwanda are largely about competition for regional influence.
Some say as long as long as National Resistance Movement headed by President Museveni and Rwanda Patriotic Front headed by President Kagame are ruling in Uganda and Rwanda respectively, the misunderstandings will continue.
According to Elijah Dickens Mushemeza, an assistant professor of development studies in Uganda, the current standoff is a short-term problem that will end soon because the countries share a lot in common. He added that the two leaders must promote peace because they share common threats such as terrorism and rebel groups in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Reaching a settlement will not take long. These things will be resolved the moment egos go down. Each party will realise the impasse is unnecessary,” Prof Mushemeza said.
It also expected that the international community would intervene in the event that tension between the two countries is likely get out of control.
For example, the UK has a lot of interest in the region given that Kigali is poised to host Commonwealth meeting for heads of governments next year.