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Uganda-Rwanda Relations Deteriorate - 2001-11-26


Relations between Uganda and Rwanda have become tense, with emotions running high. Uganda's defense minister is accusing Rwanda of using and manipulating his country.

Uganda says it does not want war, but the headline in Uganda's state-owned Sunday Vision newspaper states, "we are ready."

In a two-page article, Uganda's Defense Minister, Amama Mbabazi, accuses the Rwandan government of "spreading deliberate falsehoods to create a rift between Uganda and the people of Rwanda."

Mr. Mbabazi calls for thorough investigations into the clashes that erupted between their two armies in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1999 and 2000.

Uganda and Rwanda both back rebels fighting to overthrow the government in Congo. But the two former allies fell out over the conduct of the war. Three battles over the diamond-rich city of Kisangani, in Congo, left more than 600 civilians dead.

Uganda's Defense Minister says his country cannot sweep Kisangani under the carpet and go on as if nothing happened.

Defense Minister Mbabazi says Rwanda and Uganda should carry out joint investigations into the clashes. "We had done some investigating," he said. "We actually accepted the initial report they made. But there were many questions, which had not been answered, and we only ask that these questions be answered by initiating a deeper investigation. Two of us, we can do it jointly."

Last month, relations between Rwanda and Uganda took a further plunge, when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni wrote to British Development Minister Clare Short. Mr. Museveni said Uganda needed to double its defense budget because of the military threat from Rwanda.

Earlier this month, the British government mediated talks between the two presidents. But the animosity remains.

Uganda provided a base for the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front, which went on to seize power in Kigali in 1994 after the Rwanda genocide. Analysts say President Museveni is upset that the Rwandan leadership seems to have outgrown their earlier student-teacher relationship.

But Mr. Mbabazi says that is untrue. Instead, he charges that Rwanda has manipulated Uganda. "In fact, if anythingm when they left Uganda to go and attack Rwanda, they did not inform us. We gave advice, they rejected it. So it is not correct to suggest that our relationship is a student-teacher relationship. In fact, I characterize our relationship as a manipulator-tool relationship because they have used us as a tool to achieve their objectives, which were not made clear to us at the time."

Mr. Mbabazi says Uganda does not need gratitude from Rwanda, but rather seeks harmony.

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