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Uganda responds to Rwanda accusations

Buses stuck at the border

Buses stuck at the border

The Foreign Affairs minister, Sam Kutesa has dismissed accusations that Uganda is hosting Rwandan dissidents plotting to destabilise Rwanda.   

Richard Sezibera , the Rwandan minister of Foreign Affairs was on Tuesday quoted in the government-owned The New Times newspaper saying; “the problems that Rwandans are facing in Uganda currently are three: Rwandans are arrested, tortured, harassed in Uganda…[and] those that are not arrested, harassed, detained are deported for reasons which we don’t understand.”  

He added; “There are armed groups, individuals who head armed groups that are opposed to the government of Rwanda, that have a violent agenda towards Rwanda who operate in Uganda [such as] the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and…these are groups that have carried out (criminal) acts here in Rwanda and are based in Uganda; and, the third is the challenge related to the free movement of Rwandan goods across Ugandan territory.”   

However, in a statement issued on Tuesday, Kutesa says there has been communication at the highest level, where Uganda assured Rwanda that it can’t host people with intent to destabilise Rwanda. 

“It is false that Uganda hosts any elements fighting Rwanda. Rwanda knows this very well as it has been communicated at the highest level of the two countries,” Kutesa said. “Uganda does not and cannot allow anyone to operate from its territory that threatens a neighbour as well. 

This is a principal position. We are fully aware that our development and transformation cannot take place without peace and security in the region.”   

He said Uganda has been and continues to champion closer collaboration and coordination within regional frameworks such as East African Community (EAC), International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICLGR), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and at continental level.   

Kutesa equally dismissed claims by Rwanda that Uganda has been arresting, harassing and torturing Rwandans.

“It is well known that Uganda welcomes and maintains an open door policy for people of all nationalities, including Rwandans wishing to visit the country,” he said.   

But Kutesa emphasised that Uganda expects all visitors to Uganda, including Rwandans to remain law abiding. “Therefore, anyone including Rwandans visiting Uganda has nothing to fear, if they are law abiding.”   

As a country that has been target of sporadic terrorist attacks resulting into assassination of senior government officials, Kutesa said Uganda is vigilant and ready to protect its territory and citizens. 

“The government of Uganda remains committed to protecting the security of its citizens and its borders and will act accordingly local or foreign threats,” Kutesa warned.   

Kutesa’s statement, dismissing the allegations follows an uproar triggered by the closure of the Gatuna border by Rwanda government last week. Rwanda claimed that it closed the border so as to upgrade the one stop border post. Rwanda said the upgrading works may go on until late May. Rwanda government advised cargo trucks to turn-back and use Mirama hill border in Ntungamo district.

A number of trucks are still stuck at the Uganda side of Katuna border as negotiations continue between the two countries. Trucks, some loaded with perishables products and inflammable such as petrol are still stranded at Katuna border side of Uganda.

The Rwandan government has also gone ahead to block its nationals, including students from crossing to Uganda, fining buses up to $5,000 if they are caught with a Rwandan passenger aboard. There have been unconfirmed reports that prices of food stuffs and medicines have skyrocketed in Rwanda following the border closure. Reportedly, government is supplying the starving citizens with food but the claim it is not enough and it is just posho and beans anyway. 

Meanwhile, Uganda government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo revealed to journalists that President Yoweri Museveni had barred Ugandan officials from responding to Rwandan accusations through the media as has lately been the case. Rwanda has also refuted reports that it has deployed troops along its borders with Uganda but said even if they did, it's their right to protect her borders.           

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