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Dr Taremwa to Museveni, Kagame: Why should paranoia between you two leaders compromise citizens?

Citizens should not be dragged into misunderstandings that they have no clue about? What is the issue between Rwanda and Uganda? We have no known territorial or trade dispute.

COMMENTARY | BARNABAS TAREMWA

By the time the National Resistance Army (NRA) bush war started in 1981, it was clear that Uganda was in a state of anarchy characterized by high levels of insecurity and bloodshed perpetuated by state repression. As ordinary citizens we were the primary victims and as such we relentlessly mobilized to liberate ourselves.

As someone who has been at the centre of pro-people revolutions for many years, even in 1981, I traversed the city of Kampala with my late friend Benjamin Muhanguzi (RIP) who was commonly known as Dampa in the circles of the revolutionary struggle. Like Dampa would always say, since the Tanzanians had failed to liberate us, by all means we had to liberate ourselves.

Sendo Cleaners

Our message to the people then was that we must liberate ourselves and nobody would ever do that for us. The same message still echoes in my mind whenever there is any issue that threatens the fruits of the liberation.

It can only be us to consolidate the achievements of the liberation and if anything threatens these achievements, we should never be silent about it. As citizens we are the biggest stakeholders in this. Keeping quiet in the face of things that undermine the gains of the struggle is an act of betrayal to one’s country and unpatriotic.

Much as we have achieved so much, we also have so many issues to deal with as cadres of the revolution, but many feel shy to speak out mostly because of selfish reasons.

The burning issue currently is the perceived bad blood or cold war between Uganda and Rwanda leadership. Talk is that Uganda and Rwanda can’t see eye to eye at the highest level of leadership. There is fear that this cold war could get worse and in the circumstances it is the ordinary people both in Rwanda and Uganda that will suffer the consequences.

Ironically, everyone is talking about it in whispers; more confusing is that the issue of contention is not known or at least has not officially been made public by any of the leadership in Kampala or Kigali.

Whoever you talk to, quietly says it is Museveni and Kagame who know what’s going on. Now that brings me to the question on my mind; should a perceived bad blood between two presidents determine how citizens of the two countries should relate, especially considering the fact that the people of Uganda and Rwanda share a long history of close ties spanning over 50 years?

When President Kagame in his New Year message to Rwandans went on record to claim that there are two neighbours that don’t wish Rwandans well, what did he mean? Of course analysts eventually zeroed on Burundi and Uganda as the countries he was referring to.

What parameter did he use for example to claim that over the 40 million Ugandans don’t wish Rwandans well?

He should have been specific and said that he has his personal issues with some neighbouring leaders but not entire countries.

Citizens should not be dragged into misunderstandings that they have no clue about? What is the issue between Rwanda and Uganda? We have no known territorial or trade dispute.

The long standing cordial ties between Ugandans and Rwandans should not be compromised by ‘unknown’ disagreements between two leaders. First of all, as citizens of the two countries, there is what God put in place and we cannot change it. Rwandans and Ugandans shall be neighbours forever, shall live together, and marry among each other. The blood relations and physical location of the two countries as neighbours can never be wished away by anybody.

President Kagame was one of the 27 armed men that President Museveni led to start the bush war that eventually pacified Uganda and the Great Lakes region in general. After liberating Uganda Museveni became president with Kagame as [one of] his military leaders.

If Kagame so wished to stay in Uganda, he could have done so and sought any political office that he wished to because the 1995 constitution officially recognized Banyarwanda as one of the tribes of Uganda.

So how can a nation that constitutionally embraced Banyarwanda be the one to have hatred against the same race? It doesn’t make sense.

If you look at all countries in the world where Rwandans fled to seek refugee over the years, it is only in Uganda where they were welcomed with open hands and integrated in communities easily. This is not the same in other areas they went- talk of DR Congo, Tanzania or Kenya — the Rwandans who fled to these countries did not get the level of hospitality and acceptance as they did in Uganda.

As citizens from both states, it disturbs us when we hear a Head of State saying that a neighboring country does not wish them well.

In 2010, Dr Taremwa was decorated with the Nalubale Hero medal in Luwero district by President Museveni. Says he is still waiting for recognition from Rwanda.

If President Kagame has an issue with President Museveni, he should not make it a national issue to incite Rwandans against Ugandans.

The Banyarwanda from all borders of Rwanda and those living in Uganda, know very well that Ugandans love them. Ugandans also know it well that Banyarwanda as a people have no hatred for Ugandans. They live together, do business and even intermarry.

I participated in both the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) and National Resistance Army (NRA) liberation struggles. We traversed the world to mobilise for the NRA bush war. I’m glad and appreciate that I was recognized for my contribution to the struggle.

In 2010, I was decorated with the Nalubale Hero medal at Kikyusa, Wabusana in Luwero district by President Museveni. I’m still waiting for the second medal from RPF, I have never given up on hope that one day Kigali will recognize my contribution to the liberation of Rwanda.

I appeal to President Museveni and Kagame to reflect on how far Rwanda and Uganda have come as sister countries. The cold war between our sister countries is tantamount to self-destruction. Actually the historical relationship between Kagame and Museveni is unique and probably unheard of in history.

These are two men who started a liberation struggle and successfully liberated one country. One of them became President of Uganda and the other also moved on to liberate Rwanda where he also succeeded and became the President. The two are still serving Presidents of the two countries. I don’t remember anywhere in history where this has happened.

Even great revolutionaries like Fidel Castro and Che Guevara couldn’t achieve this feat. After the two had liberated Cuba, Che Guevara moved on to try and liberate other countries. However, within 24 hours of embarking on the second liberation he was killed in Bolivia- I think what was on his mind was to liberate Bolvia and may be his home country Argentina, but he didn’t make it.

Comrades, I don’t think there would ever be any unique and successful revolutions in our times like that of NRA and RPF.

There is also need for the overzealous cadres on both sides of the border to tread with caution and avoid fueling the already fluid relations between Kampala and Kigali.

Obscure social media sites like Virunga Post have turned to character assassination of President Museveni in a pattern that supposes they are doing it on behalf of the Kigali regime. When you read what they write about President Museveni you wonder whether their motive is to achieve a total break-down of relations between the two states.

As a cadre of both revolutions and participant in both, I have widely done research, I have talked to ordinary people and those that are above average in both Rwanda and Uganda.

Everyone says they don’t know what this silent war is all about. The effects of the silent war are starting to bite. Many people think twice before visiting either country. Those with investments cutting across the two borders are living in uncertainty fearing for the worst to come.

The cold has fueled levels of suspicion among different people from either side of the border to unprecedented levels.

As nationals of both countries we want to continue enjoying our coordinal ties and free movement of people, goods and services.

Kagame and Museveni should pronounce themselves on what exactly the problem is, if indeed it concerns citizens from the two countries. The two heads of state are servants of the people and their differences should not undermine the cordial ties between ordinary Ugandans and Rwandans.

I want to conclude by saying that the cold war between Rwanda and Uganda is like two bald men fighting for a comb that none of them needs.

On behalf of Ugandan and Rwandan citizens, I appeal to President Museveni and President Kagame to do all it takes to keep peace and harmony between Rwandans and Ugandans. If there are any issues between the two of you, resolve them expeditiously because we risk undoing the gains of the liberation in both countries.

I wish your Excellences a Happy New Year

Dr Barnabas Taremwa | Regional Cadre 311

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