News / Africa

Uganda, Rwanda Move to Mend Troubled Relations

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni (R) shakes hands his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame at Entebbe State House, in Entebbe, Uganda, December 11, 2011.
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni (R) shakes hands his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame at Entebbe State House, in Entebbe, Uganda, December 11, 2011.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has wrapped up a two-day trip to Uganda - where he was given an award by the Ugandan president for inspiring Africa’s younger generation. The trip is seen as a sign of growing rapprochement between two countries.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni cited the leadership of his Rwandan counterpart Kagame as he presented him with a lifetime achievement award Sunday at the annual Young Achievers Awards ceremony in Kampala.

Many here see the award as just one more sign of improving relations between Uganda and Rwanda, after Museveni visited Kigali earlier this year. Relations have been rocky since 1999, when the Ugandan and Rwandan armies, supporting rival rebel factions, clashed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There were several more skirmishes in the decade that followed.

Longtime rivalry

Political analyst Nicholas Sengoba in Kampala said suspicion between the two neighbors runs deep.

“Whenever Uganda has a problem, they always keep talking about people who are being helped by a foreign country. And many people believe that this euphemism of ‘foreign country’ is actually Rwanda and the president of Rwanda,” said Sengoba.

But there was little of that on display at the ceremony and during the speeches, where unity and connections were stressed.

Kagame actually grew up in Uganda, one of thousands of displaced Rwandan Tutsis who fled violence and persecution at home. Joining the Ugandan army, he served as head of military intelligence under Museveni before forming the Rwandan Patriotic Front, or RPF. The RPF then fought its way back into Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

The Ugandan president on Sunday praised Kagame’s history as a fighter, and commended the RPF for having saved Rwanda.

“At that time we had challenges, and they took that choice of fighting for our country, first of all here in Uganda and later on in Rwanda.  Who saved Rwanda? It was the young people with the right ideas,” said Museveni.

Mending a deep rift

In his speech, Kagame emphasized the importance of unity between the two countries.

"Addressing the Ugandan youth feels very familiar. It is like being home talking to our own Rwandan young men and women. That is because they have a lot in common, but also because their destiny, like that of other young Africans, is intertwined. It is our responsibility as leaders and mentors to encourage them to work together," said Kagame. "The new world order has demonstrated beyond doubt that all countries need to work together to find solutions to their problems. This is even more compelling for us in Africa.”

Sengoba said the timing of Uganda’s improving relations with its neighbors is not accidental. With the large oil reserves in western Uganda on the verge of being tapped, he said that regional stability has suddenly taken on a new level of importance.

“Now that DR Congo has had a very inconclusive election, you can see that the security situation on that side is something to cause concern.  Part of the Albertine area in which we have discovered our oil is bordered by DR Congo. All these efforts at rapprochement with Rwanda, and ensuring that there are good relations with all the other neighbors, one of the issues is mainly preserving and protecting the oil, especially from a very insecure and volatile neighbor like DR Congo,” said Sengoba.

Serious accusations persist

The lifetime achievement award comes less than two weeks after a Rwandan journalist living in Uganda, a vocal critic of Kagame, was shot dead in a Kampala bar. Many exiled Rwandans blame the Rwandan security forces for the killing, under what they say is increasingly authoritarian rule. Reporters Without Borders have said that Rwandan journalists face harassment and arrest, and Amnesty International has accused the government of using its genocide denial laws to stifle opposition.

But the Rwandan president brushed aside such allegations at a news conference Monday in Kampala, preferring to keep the focus on what he sees as his positive achievements. He also suggested he might run for a third seven-year term - something which would require a constructional amendment.

Sengoba points out that for Kagame, better relations with Uganda could help him control his enemies.

“It is really important that President Kagame actually has a neighbor here who would never offer comfort and encouragement to those who don’t agree with him. That is one of the things that Kagame has to gain out of this,” said Sengoba.

Kagame also is expected to attend the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in Kampala later this week, a summit of leaders aimed at furthering the cause of regional integration.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs