Stakes will be high as officials from Rwanda and Uganda meet to discuss the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on August 21 in Luanda, Angola aimed at resolving tensions between the two countries.
The meeting which will bring together Foreign Affairs Ministers from the two countries will take place this coming Monday in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, with the purpose of establishing an AdHoc Committee and setting the momentum for the implementation of the MoU.
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in charge of East African Community (EAC) Olivier Nduhungire confirmed to KT Press that the meeting in Kigali, the first after the signing of the MoU, will happen on Monday with the implementation of the MoU being the main topic on the agenda.
“The agenda is simple, the implementation of the Luanda MoU,” Nduhungirehe said. Asked if there are specific issues that will be brought to the table, the Minister said “there is nothing specific. We will discuss the implementation of the Luanda MoU, the whole of it.”
Nduhungirehe is expected to lead the Rwandan delegation while the Uganda side will be led by Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa as well as other technocrats who will chart the way forward for the two countries.
Despite the signing of the agreement by Presidents Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni last month, under the auspices of President João Lourenço of Angola, relations between the two countries are yet to improve with Rwanda already accusing Uganda of reneging on the MoU few days after the signing.
The signing in Angola was attended by President Félix Tshisekedi of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and President Dennis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo.
The MoU set out the terms the two countries will follow in the reconciliation process, including both parties undertaking to respect the sovereignty of each other’s and of the neighbouring countries.
Among other things, both countries were expected to refrain from actions conducive to destabilisation or subversion in the territory of the other party and neighbouring countries, thereby eliminating all factors that may create such perception, as well as that of acts such as the financing, training and infiltration of destabilisation forces.
The MoU further states that the two countries commit to protect and respect the rights and freedoms of nationals of the other party residing or transiting in their national territories, in accordance with the law of that country.
The MoU also stipulates that both countries will resume the cross-border movement of people and trade as soon as possible, for the development and improvement of the lives of their populations.
The signing of the MoU was followed by more tensions including blocking of news sites, while more Rwandans continued to be illegally deported from Uganda.
Following the signing, President Kagame said that he was confident that the MoU clearly addressed all the outstanding issues that have affected relations between the two countries.
Reliable sources indicate that the meeting of the officials will be followed by the meeting of the two heads of states to iron out the differences.
Rough road ahead
Relations between Rwanda and Uganda have been affected over the last two or so years, with Rwanda particularly accusing Kampala of arbitrarily arresting and torturing Rwandans in Uganda, deporting hundreds, supporting groups fighting the Rwandan agreement and economic sabotage.
Tensions between the two countries escalated further with Rwanda advising her citizens not to cross over to Uganda for their own safety, while Uganda said it was arresting people suspected of spying and infiltrating security organs.
Kampala also linked the closure of Gatuna One-Stop Border Post to heavy trucks carrying goods to the tensions but Rwanda has consistently denied these accusations, attributing the closure of the border to ongoing construction works.
Rwanda has maintained that the only way to normalise relations would be for Uganda to address the raised concerns.
Reliable sources say the road ahead could be long and rough as the two countries move to iron out their differences, without compromising their stand.
“For Rwanda, the most pertinent issue will be security, which can’t be addressed without Uganda admitting and declaring to stop backing subversive groups fighting the government of Rwanda. That is something Rwanda will not make any compromised,” a source privy to the discussions said.
“Uganda has been adamant to directly address these issues or at least show the will, which will make it difficult for the implementation of the MoU to progress well,” the source added.
In July, President Lourenço took up the task to reconcile the two neighbours, bringing on board President Tshisekedi and President Sassou Nguesso to facilitate. The Angolan leader and facilitators promised to follow through on the implementation process.
Previous meetings between President Kagame and President Museveni had not resolved the issues, with arrests of Rwandans in Uganda continuing.
Rwanda has maintained since February that Rwandans cannot go to Uganda if their safety is not guaranteed.
Both countries are expected to “keep the facilitators regularly informed of the progress in the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding”.