By Ngango Rukara
As Uganda sinks deeper into political crisis, it is becoming increasingly clear that the regime and its hired propaganda guns are out to replay the 2001 scenario, where they worked hard to portray Rwanda as the politically unstable neighbour responsible for all of Uganda's problems.
The regime in Kampala took the joke a little bit too far when they crowned it all with the infamous March 2001 declaration signed by the then Security Minister Muruli Mukasa, to the effect that Rwanda was a "hostile country". Subsequently, the expression "neighbouring country" has assumed a new meaning in the NRM government politico-military lingua, referring to Rwanda as the source of all political problems for the regime.
Indeed, the Ugandan President's October 2001 letter to the then British Minister for Overseas Development, Ms Clare Short signaled to the world how low President Museveni was prepared to go to smear President Paul Kagame and to draw Rwanda into the mess that was engulfing Uganda.
For an African Head of State to put pen to paper with no intention other than badmouthing a fellow African leader to an official of a former colonial power, he later described as a junior minister, was a scandal that shook many African leaders to their very core. Here you had an African leader, who had worked hard all his adult life to portray himself as a revolutionary and freedom fighter, reporting a fellow African Head of State to a junior European minister, in the manner of a schoolboy whining to a colonial school headmistress.
It is now evidently routine, that every time the regime in Kampala is cornered, the only way they can create some breathing space for themselves, is by shifting the focus on to Rwanda. This is an all too familiar diversionary strategy, whereby the regime has desperately sought to fabricate news headlines using government mouthpieces like The New Vision and the Red Paper publications, to peddle falsehoods and outright lies against Rwanda. It simply boggles the mind as to how Uganda's first family which has always postured as champions of family values and Born Again adherents has exploited Kampala's pornographic publication to dish out dirt at real and imagined enemies at home and beyond.
The screaming front page story "Top Officers Flee Rwanda", The New Vision, Wednesday, May 4, 2005 is a clear illustration of how desperate the Museveni regime is getting and to what extent they are prepared to go in their efforts to manipulate the Ugandan population, and divert the attention from the constitutional crisis that is now President Museveni's nightmare. The New Vision is a Uganda government mouthpiece which articulates government policies, positions and views. It is, therefore, clear that the story referring to alleged unnamed top Rwandan officers fleeing, was a Ugandan government statement, never mind Amama Mbabazi's protestations of editorial independence. For such a sensational lead story breaking news of alleged fleeing Rwandan military officers without naming any of them, without a hint as to who the purported source in the "Ugandan security" is, clearly points to the fact that the New Vision is now serving as a government handout used by the military and other government intelligence outfits to plant stories designed to advance the interests of the ruling clique in Kampala. What is evident here is that the story is not only a lie it also constitutes interference in Rwanda's internal affairs by the government of Uganda. It is a clear provocation which serves to undermine the efforts that have been made to restore relations between the two countries.
On the other hand, though, it is critical to recognize that the government in Kampala is at the crossroads and desperately needs someone to blame for its failures and inefficiencies. When Ambassador Johnny Carson, an American diplomat who has known Museveni long enough to conceive an informed opinion of the man, having served as the United States Ambassador to Uganda, described the Ugandan President as an "other Mugabe and Zimbabwe", in an article published in the May 1st issue of the Boston Globe, he knew what he was talking about. President Museveni is sinking faster than anyone expected, including those opposed to his regime, and he has made up his mind that if he is going down, he will at least try to take someone with him, and he has evidently placed Rwanda in his sights.
Indeed, Rwanda's record of success in good governance has not gone down well with the Museveni regime. As the rest of the world applaud Rwanda's phenomenal achievements against all odds, the people of Uganda are beginning to ask hard questions; questions related to corruption in high places, issues pertaining to Ministers who have been censured for corruption and have continued to feature prominently in government, President Museveni's determination to cling on to power at all costs and the whole question of political transition and constitutionalism.
The future is bleak and Ugandans are worried. They are simply wondering where they are headed, as countries whose financial support has accounted for a larger percentage of the national budget, denounce Museveni's regime one by one. Indeed, as Rwanda's entire external debt was being written off, the British Government was announcing suspension of financial aid to Uganda on account of President Museveni's efforts to manipulate the Constitution which will ultimately guarantee his dream of a life Presidency. As it turns out the only way the NRM regime can address issues related to its own incompetence and corruption is to shift the focus on to Rwanda and as such, this is not the last we have read/heard of Ugandan government fabrications against Rwanda.
The Uganda government statement as articulated in The New Vision lists a number of Rwandan officials allegedly victimized on the grounds that they are what the regime in Kampala refers to as "Ugandans". Ironically, it is these very officials that the Ugandan political elite has always described as the "RPF inner circle". They further claim that Col. Patrick Karegyeya is "likely to be charged with insubordination". Col. Karegyeya stands accused of indiscipline not "insubordination", as the question insubordination does not arise in the Rwanda Defence Forces. Insubordination is an inherent characteristic of armies like the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF), where a Major General David Tinyefuza is charged with treason and the next day he is appointed a Presidential Advisor on Defence ! As an officer in the RDF, Col. Karegyeya is bound by the rules that govern discipline in the Army, and there is nothing unusual if he is found in violation and charged accordingly. On the other hand, one would understand why such an action would constitute front page news for the Uganda government, since such codes are non-existent within the UPDF.
The crocodile tears The New Vision and the Kampala regime shed for Gerald Gahima and his brother Theogene Rudasingwa are simply an exercise in futility. Gahima resigned his position as Deputy Chief Justice after newspapers published stories detailing his default on payment of personal loans to commercial banks in Kigali, to the effect that a man in his position had been blacklisted by the National Bank as delinquent. Certainly this was not an individual with any moral authority to sit in judgment of others. While Dr. Rudasingwa was acquitted of embezzlement charges by the courts, he had not only lost the moral authority necessary to hold the kind of office he occupied, his employer, the Government of Rwanda in this case, had lost confidence in him and this cost him his job.
Mr. Sam Nkusi resigned his cabinet portfolio after he failed to fulfill his responsibilities as a minister, with a tenure characterized by improprieties which went against the spirit of ministerial collective responsibility. Dr. Ben Rugangazi was appointed from the private sector to become Rwanda's Ambassador to China and portraying his appointment as a demotion is misleading, to say the least. Lt. General Kayumba Nyamwasa was appointed Ambassador to India, a re-assignment that is normal in Rwanda, since representing one's country at that level is indeed regarded as an honour by the Rwandan people. Brig. Gen. Jack Nziza was moved from the Directorate of Military Intelligence to become the RDF's Chief Political Commissar not Director of Education and Sports as alleged in The New Vision. Lt. Col. Richard Masozera was promoted from the position of Director of Immigration to Security Advisor to the Prime Minister. What the regime in Uganda would want to spin as "purging" in Rwanda, is clearly routine re-assigning of duties and outright resignations on the part of those whose moral authority is found wanting for various reasons. Once again, this would sound strange to the regime in Kampala, since the act of taking personal responsibility for one's failures in public office is unheard of in Uganda.
While Rwanda and Uganda are next door neighbours, with so much in common between their two peoples, the story ends there, especially when you consider the value systems that set the leadership in the two countries apart, and this will continue to be a source of conflict as long as the government in Kampala seeks to use Rwanda as a diversion from the crisis that is fast engulfing Uganda, owing to failures inherent in poor leadership, so characteristic of the NRM.
Ngango Rukara is a Policy Analyst at the Great Lakes Centre in Kigali