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I asked Museveni to point out any problem he has with Rwanda, he had none — Kagame

SECURITY | Rwandan President Paul Kagame has revealed some detail of his engagements with President Museveni over the strained relations between the countries, including discussions on activities of a businessman and other bilateral relations.

Addressing leaders at the 16th National Leadership Retreat, Umwiherero, in Gabiro, eastern Rwanda on Saturday, Kagame took time to explain the strained Rwanda-Uganda ties that has seen Rwanda block its citizens from travelling to Uganda amid strong accusations that Uganda was harbouring dissidents training to destabilise his government.

“We have been talking, myself and my counterpart [Museveni], I sent my senior officials. In one of the meetings with Uganda authorities, I told my counterpart, ‘President, I’m begging with you, deal with this matter,'” Kagame said.

Sendo Cleaners

Clad in a grey checkered shirt, the Rwandan leader had his sleeves buttoned at the wrists and spoke with measured calmless, albeit one that betrayed the explicit message he was sending across — that his sleeves are actually rolled up ready for any confrontation.

“You can shoot me and kill me if you like. But there is one thing I am certain about: You can never bring me to my knees. Men and women of Rwanda, you must never go to your knees, you should never accept that. We are better than that,” he said.

Earlier in the week, The Observer newspaper published detail of Museveni’s meeting with Kagame, revealing that the Rwandan leader had demanded that Museveni rein in the tobacco ‘magnate’ whom he accused of sponsoring Rwanda National Congress (RNC) rebels.

Tribert Rujugiro is a Rwandan businessman with a tobacco factory in West Nile and other interests in the private sector.During the launch of his factory, President Museveni was the chief guest.

“Initially, he [Museveni] said he did not know him [Rujugiro], then I proved to him that he knew him,” Kagame said.

“I have asked my counterpart of Uganda whether there is anything they have against Rwanda and promised I would go back and address it, whatever it was. I said ‘Rwanda doesn’t want this problem, I don’t want it. And he could not point out any.”

Accusations

Initially, the strained relations was only felt in the cold war with the two countries embroiled in veiled diplomatic spats. But after Uganda deported four MTN Uganda top executives — including Rwandan Annie Tabura — accusing them of engaging in acts that endangered national security, Rwanda went explicit.

Last week, Rwanda’s foreign minister Richard Sezibera told the national newspaper that his government has variously raised concerns that Uganda is harbouring “armed groups, individuals who head armed groups that are opposed to the Government of Rwanda, that have a violent agenda toward Rwanda.”

He claimed that rebels extradited to Rwanda from DR Congo had confessed to being facilitated by a number of actors within Uganda and Burundi, adding that the UN Group of Experts has also pointed it out.

“I am talking about individuals, some of who are in positions of responsibility in those governments,” Sezibera said.

In January, Sezibera’s deputy tweeted following the expulsion of Annie Tabura, a former MTN Uganda top executive over allegation of spying on Uganda, saying: “Apparently, walking and working in Uganda while Rwandan have become a crime. The only activities allowed for Rwandans in Uganda seem to be plotting against their country, training forces for the RNC/P5 [a Rwandan rebel group based in eastern DR Congo] and denouncing fellow Rwandans.”

Kagame on Saturday added his voice to those of his ministers, explaining that the challenge at Gatuna border was temporary and has nothing to do with the issues with Uganda.

“It appears the only leeway for Rwandans to be safe in Uganda is if they go saying they are against Rwanda. But I wouldn’t advise anyone to do that, no Rwandan should be against their country. My advice is that Rwandans should not go there unless they are sure,” he said.

“These Rwandans are being arrested by Ugandan authorities on a tip-off of other Rwandans, by the RNC agents. RNC has been given a free hand to recruit in Uganda.Those who refused to be recruited by RNC have been framed, many arrested.”

Crime24 understands that the border blockade was triggered following intel to Kigali that Rwandan rebels were training and recruiting members, including those inside Rwanda, from Uganda. Kagame appeared to hint as much in his speech.

Although President Museveni has maintained silence on the matter and only giving out veiled rebuttal or threats once in a while, the government on Tuesday responded to the raft of accusations from south-western neighbours, saying it expects all visitors into the country [Uganda] to remain law-abiding.

In a statement, released Tuesday, Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa said visitors who act contrary to the law are dealt with in accordance with the law. “Anyone visiting Uganda, including Rwandans, have nothing to fear if they are law-abiding,” Kutesa said.

“As a country that has been subject of terror attacks with the assassination of Muslim sheikhs, State Attorney Joan Kagezi, and Member of Parliament Ibrahim Abiriga, and others, we remain vigilant,” he said.

“Rwanda knows this very well as it has been a matter of confidential communication at the highest level of the two countries. Uganda does not and cannot allow anyone to operate from its territory that threatens a neighbour as alleged. This is a principled position.”

Kagame warns

Meanwhile, Kagame rallied his nationals on patriotism and believing in themselves in the face of challenges, and warned that his country was ready to deal with any kind of provocation.

“If others have made a choice to bring problems to you, they should find you ready to absorb it, contain it, and make sure it doesn’t give them what they want,” he said. “Whoever provokes us, left or right, we will mind our business and we hope people give us the chance to mind our own business and they mind theirs.”

He said relations come in three ways, being allies and working closely, everyone for themselves, and conflicting.

“It will not come from us, from this country or me, to seek problems with others. My choice is to be a friendly neighbour, and anyone who chooses that they will never find us wanting on that. We are honest friends and allies with anyone who wants to live with us as friends,” Kgame added.

The Rwandan leader closed his remarks saying that although he might not be in control of what somebody else thinks about him or plans to do against him, “I must be in control of something, and that is what happens here.”

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