Muhoozi is seen in Kigali as a man of goodwill, but is also eager to project power and influence.
February 28, 2022
In Kigali, Muhoozi is seen as a man with goodwill, but he is also keen to project power and influence to nurture his political ambitions. Lt-Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba's revelations that a rebel group accused by Rwanda of fomenting poor relations between the two nations had a foothold in Uganda might eventually prove to be a step toward healing ties. It depends on whether his public views are also the views of the government. He referred in particular to Rwanda's exiled general, Kayumba Nyamwasa, a founding member of the Rwandan opposition group RNC based in South Africa. He mentioned his activities in Uganda last week in a Twitter post. Moreover, Kayumba and RNC, can you tell me what troubles you had with the mainstream RPF and RDF in Rwanda? Be careful about using my land!” Uganda has repeatedly denied that RNC operates and prepares attacks from Rwanda. Some viewed the remark of Lieutenant-General Kainerugaba as an admission of harm caused to Rwanda-Uganda relations by the organization. In a series of tweets, Gen Kainerugaba, who visited Rwanda in January, clearly expressed his desire to restore ties between the two nations. He continues to adulate President Kagame, whom he calls "uncle." The tweet from Rwanda on February 19 seemed to raise the issue of Uganda becoming a refuge for forces seeking to undermine the Kagame administration. However, Uganda's Foreign Ministry continues to deny it. In an interview with NTV Uganda broadcast on February 18, Uganda's State Minister for Foreign Affairs Okello Oryem hinted that the country is considering criminalizing Rwandan dissidents on its soil. The measure would address longstanding criticisms that Uganda provides a safe harbor for Rwandan fugitives. Now we're working round the clock. Unlike the wheels of the law, bureaucracy moves slowly. I can promise Ugandans that we are working as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with security and the Office of the President, to see how we can move these things and have the border open as it used to be,” he added. Lt-Gen Kainerugaba is the Commander of Ugandan Land Forces and Senior Presidential Adviser on Special Operations. Consequently, his work does not concern the regular administration of the country's foreign policy. In any case, he admitted that the unlawful and criminal acts of the RNC in Uganda in the past led to a senseless conflict. All those engaged in that fraudulent endeavor will be found!” That declaration came amid suspicions that President Museveni’s brother, Gen Caleb Akandwanaho (aka Salim Saleh), who Rwanda perceives as an adversary, was due to visit Kigali as part of the normalization of ties between the two nations. But Uganda’s Foreign Affairs ministry released a statement declaring there was no such scheduled visit. Ismael Buchanan, a political analyst and professor of political science at the University of Rwanda, stated Muhoozi’s tweets are perceived as authoritative and forceful. “His tweets regarding RNC are more relevant, since they are issues of security, security issues, and he is the Commander of the Land Forces of the Uganda People's Defence Force and special advisor to President Museveni. This is, however, not a guarantee of change until action is made. Rwandans in Uganda would still need to exercise cautiously, but the tweets make a favorable image on Rwanda. But past moves by both governments began with his tweets,” he added. Political observers have not ruled out the alleged trip by the President’s brother, adding that, given Kainerugaba’s personal close connection with Gen Salim Saleh, conversation is likely. Rwanda has asserted that groups hostile to the system are being harbored and aided by certain security officials in Uganda. As a condition to thawing of relations, Kigali has given conditions, including the banning of Self Worth Initiative, the nonprofit it accuses of coordinating RNC’s rebel activities in Uganda and freezing of investments belonging to Rwandan businessman Tribert Rujugiro, which include Meridian Tobaco Company in West Nile. These are reported to fund RNC operations. Kayumba was in the Rwanda administration until February 2010, when, during a conference in Kigali for Rwandan envoys, he left via Uganda after falling out with President Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Front leadership. He subsequently sought refuge in South Africa. Rwanda felt the general was aided by the security system in Uganda. Many Rwandans have also gone to Uganda as refugees and have been lodged in refugee camps. A few years previously, former Inspector-General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura and others were accused of unlawfully extraditing such migrants to Rwanda against the international convention on the treatment of refugees. One of the extradited was a former bodyguard of President Kagame, Joel Mutabazi, who was subsequently charged with unlawful possession of guns, terrorism, disseminating negative information about the Rwanda government, murder, conspiracy to kill, and creation of terrorist organizations. Mutabazi had said that he was being persecuted in Rwanda, abandoned the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) and escaped to Uganda, where he had registered as a refugee. Uganda dismisses reports it dismissed the military commander due to pressure from Kigali. Further, Kigali urged the Ugandan government to dismiss the country’s head of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, Maj-Gen Abel Kandiho, who was accused of leading operations that target Rwandan people in Uganda. Gen Kandiho was dismissed from the role, originally dispatched to South Sudan, then soon after redeployed to the police force. He is also sanctioned by the US government for suspected abuse of detainees in detention. Mr Simiyu claimed that Uganda’s borders have always been open and that Rwanda is the one that should be put to task to explain why there is no free movement of people across its borders. Officials in Kigali argue that although the arbitrary arrest of Rwandans in Uganda seems to have “slowed down” in recent weeks following Kainerugaba’s visit to Rwanda, relations remain icy since the pressing concerns remain unaddressed. Moreover, bilateral discussions have yet to commence, and there is no indication as to when they could start. There are still outstanding problems and Rwanda’s stance and desires are clear. Change is only ensured when we witness action being done. Yet, in Kigali, Muhoozi is considered as a guy with benevolence, but also determined to display authority and influence to nourish his political aspirations. They refer to the fact that the journey to Rwanda and the ensuing purpose to reestablish ties between the two nations is a personal initiative which, if successful, may strengthen his image as a blossoming statesman. “Muhoozi’s activities are beyond the formal framework (accepted in Luanda) (agreed in Luanda). He has his own future ambitions. It remains to be seen whether he will succeed but so far nothing much has changed save that the arbitrary arrests of Rwandans in Uganda by security forces seem to have slowed down...” said a Rwanda government official who has taken part in security talks on the matter in the past. Recently, Alain Mukuralinda, Rwandan deputy Government’s Spokesman, told Rwanda TV that Uganda was yet to address all of Kigali’s issues. “It does not imply that incidences of beatings, torture and deportations of Rwandan people are gone. It does not imply that the individuals stationed in Uganda, who wish to undermine Rwanda, have stopped. We hope it is a positive beginning towards halting all that,” Mr Mukuralinda added.