KIGALI – Rwanda and Uganda have agreed to resolve issues that have strained bilateral relations in recent months. Through an ad hoc commission, the two sides have been working on their differences in order to defuse tensions.
The talks build on a memorandum of understanding that was signed in Angola one month ago to end the dispute that prompted both countries to accuse the other of spying, political assassinations and meddling. The tensions had also prompted Rwanda to close the border with its northern neighbor.
At the meeting Monday, Olivier Nduhungirehe, minister of state within Rwanda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke of the long history between the two countries.
“Rwanda and Uganda share historical ties, that should normally build a strong strategic alliance given the long-standing bonds that link the two peoples and countries,” he said.
Rwanda’s government, however, did not raise the issue of a travel advisory aimed at discouraging Rwandans from traveling to Uganda. Kigali has voiced concern about cases involving Rwandans, who it says have been illegally detained or tortured on Ugandan soil. This has been a point of contention between the countries.
Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa says the state will employ due process in the case of the Rwandans.
“We are going to use the courts … we are going to use all formal ways, of dealing with people who alleged criminals or alleged detained so as to distinguish innocents from guilty,” he said.
Rwanda also accuses Uganda of hosting and supporting terror groups aimed at destabilizing the government in Kigali. The Ugandan foreign minister says his country has no interest in destabilizing Rwanda’s security.
“The point is that we have nothing to benefit in destabilizing Rwanda just like I think they have nothing in destabilizing Uganda. We are going to be investigating all of these allegations and we shall find a way of resolving them,” he said.
The ad hoc commission meeting was the first aimed at following up on the implementation of the memorandum of understanding.
Angola’s minister of external relations, Manuel Domingos Augusto, attended Monday’s meeting. He voiced optimism after the talks, saying it shows African countries can work together to resolve issues among themselves.”
“This is a positive sign and this is also proof that we can find African solutions for African problems,” he said.
Rwanda and Uganda signed the memorandum of understanding on August 21. Officials say that in addition to Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo played a role in getting Rwanda and Uganda to sign the agreement. Despite the progress, though, observers say for now, nothing has changed or improved and are taking a wait-and-see approach.