On March 16, Andrew Mwenda’s The Independent published a highly sensational and fictitious article titled “How Besigye’s wife negotiated a deal between Museveni and Kagame.” A bizarrely titled piece that reduces the executive head of a UN agency to someone’s mere appendage rather than in her own merit, starts and ends in similar fashion.
The only thing that is not concocted in the article is the fact that the 20th ICASA (International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa) event took place in Kigali in December last year. Winnie Byanyima attended in her capacity as the Executive Director of UNAIDs, a position she had just been appointed to.
As is normal diplomatic courtesy, President Kagame – as the host – met with top officials from the public and private sector, as well as those of multi-lateral organizations. He did this before, during, and after the event. A meeting with Byanyima would therefore be nothing out of the ordinary.
A meeting between Kagame and Byanyima cannot be one of equals and when the former summoned the latter, “there was no such thing as ‘to apologise’ for the reaction of Rwandan officials” in the crisis between Rwanda and Uganda, a source revealed. “It is wishful thinking,” the source added, noting that, as an official of the United Nations, Byanyima should not have gotten involved with reckless pronouncements trying to create false moral equivalency on a bilateral political matter between the criminal behaviour of her home country’s government and that of Rwanda on matter completely outside her agency’s mandate, “if at all she felt the need to speak, she shouldn’t talk about the border if she isn’t going to talk about the human rights violations such as the illegal detention and torture of innocent Rwandans in Uganda,” the source observed. If she wants to speak freely about controversial bilateral issues between Uganda and Rwanda that have no bearing to UNAIDS work, she needs to consider whether her perch at UNAIDS allows her that freedom and consider her options. If she is unable to do so on her own, then her direct bosses need to remind her of the duty of discretion her employment as an international public servant imposes, and the consequences of failing to adhere by the UN’s code of conduct all international public servants are subject to.
Mwenda’s Independent then claims that Kagame told Byanyima that the mistreatment of Rwandans in Uganda “makes me look impotent before my people.” The reasons for the bizarre article start to reveal themselves because this reference to impotence must be a reference to how President Museveni felt when he promised the Kisoro and Kabale people that he would get the border opened during the recent summit at Gatuna-Katuna only to return empty-handed and having to appear impotent before a hostile crowd that grilled him.
Mwenda’s Independent’s concoction uses Byanyima to try to somehow reduce, if not entirely cure (that is impossible), Museveni’s impotence, “Byanyima asked why Kagame had not told Museveni about this. Kagame replied that his efforts to reach out and talk to the Ugandan president, whether through emissaries or through telephone calls had gone unreciprocated.”
Everyone knows, and the Independent should know, that it is President Museveni who has been sending emissaries to Kigali and not the other way around and clearly these efforts on Museveni’s part “have gone unreciprocated,” which must be infuriating, and aggravating that feeling of impotence.
The script is already hopeless, “Byanyima asked Kagame if she should go and discusss this concern with Museveni, Kagame said he was okay with it.” The audience endures, “Byanyima flew from Kigali to Entebbe where she met with Museveni. After hearing the complaint, Museveni told Byanyima he was going to have all Rwandans detained in Uganda to be released.”
Who doesn’t know that a few of the illegally detained Rwandans in Uganda were released in the context of the MoU that was signed between the two countries under the facilitation of Angola and the DRC? There is nothing in Mwenda’s Independent’s concocted “message” that isn’t already in the Angola MoU, which established official follow-up mechanisms involving top officials of the concerned countries. Only people used to working in broken systems would think that Kagame would turn around and whisper to Byanyima something that is already being implemented as part of official arrangements. In fact, the problem between Uganda and Rwanda is not that the countries failed to find a “trusted” emissary; it is about Uganda’s hostile policies towards Rwanda. If at all what was needed to end the “quarrel between Kampala and Kigali” was a “trusted” person, it wouldn’t be Byanyima.