Andrew Mwenda; Facts do really matter

By Dick Mugahe
On 12 June 2019 at 04:09

In his recent article titled, “Uganda and Rwanda’s Slippery slope” covered in The Independent Newspaper on 03/06/19, Mwenda quotes the recent incident of two smugglers –a Rwandan and a Ugandan who was killed while attacking a Rwandan soldier along the Rwanda-Uganda border. “Last week, Uganda claimed that Rwandan troops had crossed into Uganda and shot two people dead. Rwanda said the incident took place on Rwandan soil”. Throughout the article, Mwenda refers to this incident six times. In all his arguments he doesn’t mention any other incident.

Based on this he argues that “Given the circumstances, the facts do not really matter.” He backs his argument saying that “In such tense situations, these incidents only provide propaganda value to partisans on each side to prove their side to be the aggrieved party.”
Mwenda then concludes that war between Rwanda and Uganda is inevitable. He mentions the inevitable break out of the war between Rwanda and Uganda six times in the article. “Given the circumstances, a war between Uganda and Rwanda is possible and most likely may be inevitable”.

If war is inevitable especially between brotherly and erstwhile allies like Uganda and Rwanda, there must be some core issues that have to be raised. First, what are the grievances of either country that makes this war inevitable? 2) Who is the aggressor? 3) Can these grievances be resolved amicably without war? These are some questions that Mwenda uncharacteristically fails to address in this article.

Interestingly, in one of Mwenda’s articles published on 12th March 2019 and titled “Analysis: Inside Rwanda-Uganda Conflict’ he addressed these issues at length and objectively. When I read that piece, I immediately suspected he would be called to order by the powers that be. I guess that’s what happened. Backed with strong evidence and his usual privy to National security apparatus, Mwenda had ably shown that Uganda as the aggressor. It would be unfortunate if the renown maverick Mwenda with his newspaper has come to the conclusion that, “where you sit determines where you stand”.

Allow me to use his words in the first article (March) to demonstrate his contradictions in the latest (June) article.

As I said earlier, there are urgent questions you must address if countries are ‘inevitably’ going to war. Firstly, What are grievances for either country that makes the war inevitable? Mwenda dwells on the smugglers incident to predict an inevitable war. For sure, if an incident can lead to war, then that means a war plan has already been hatched and the incident would only act as a trigger.

For example, the Genocide against Tutsi was not triggered by a plane crash but rather an outcome of a systematic and well-planned slaughter that had been prepared for years.

The Grievances as presented by Mwenda

Let me single out the grievances put forward by Mwenda in his March article and then show the contradictions in his June article.

Rwanda

  • “Rwanda has complained severally to Uganda both formally and informally about the presence of persons hostile to the government in Kigali. It says these people abuse their refugee status in Uganda by indulging in politically hostile actions against the government in Kigali”.
  • “Rwanda has further complained that these persons (many of whom it named) is actively aided by Ugandan intelligence to recruit Rwandans from refugee camps and take them to DR Congo for training in rebel camps”.
  • “Kagame has told Museveni that Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) actively works with Rwandan dissidents”.
  • “CMI has detained Rwandan nationals in illegal facilities, torturing and deporting them to Rwanda”.
  • “Kigali has protested these detentions formally and informally”.

Uganda

  • “CMI accuses these people of spying but has never produced them before the courts of law. Neither has Uganda complained to Rwanda about this.
  • “Uganda accuses Rwanda of kidnapping and killing Rwandans in Uganda and seeking regime change but never provides names or any evidence and has never made a formal or informal protest to Rwanda”.
  • “Kigali has been reading in Ugandan traditional and social media that it is the government of Rwanda planning regime change in Kampala. Websites allied to State House in Uganda are leading this charge”.

Mwenda gives all the answers to the Ugandan grievances, but Rwandan grievances remain unanswered.

On Rwandan grievances, Mwenda agrees that Kigali has complained to Uganda both formally and informally. On the other hand, he says Uganda has never complained either formally or informally to Rwanda on their issues. Regarding the complaint of CMI actively working with Rwandan dissidents, Museveni promised to verify, which he did and sent one (Rugema Kayumba) to Norway. That was a confirmation that CMI works with RNC. Rugema Kayumba is the one who arrested Gatsinzi Fidel and handed him to CMI.

On regime change, Mwenda says, “I am aware that whenever Museveni has met Kagame, he has never raised the issue of regime change by Kigali against him”.
Mwenda has unfettered access to President Museveni and his security apparatus; he is, therefore, talking from an informed point of view. It’s therefore, surprising to see him argue that, “given the circumstances, the ‘facts do not really matter’. In such tense situations, these incidents only provide propaganda value to partisans on each side to prove their side to be the aggrieved party”.

Only facts can demystify the false propaganda as Mwenda admits that is spread by Uganda CMI and State House. “It is possible that Uganda has legitimate grievances against Rwanda. However, in my many years working on Rwanda–Uganda matters, I have never been presented with any. Instead, elements in the security and the rumor mongering services in Kampala have made many allegations against Kigali, which they have been unwilling to substantiate or formally or even informally complain about to Rwanda. At any rate, if they have credible claims against Rwanda, they can simply present them to the government in Kigali”.

In his March article, Mwenda clearly demonstrates with his personal experience how Uganda has failed to prove her grievances, while Rwanda’s case has been formally and informally articulated. Unfortunately, in his June article, he refutes facts because, “..these incidents only provide propaganda value to partisans of each side to prove their side to be aggrieved”.That’s a huge 180-degree turn.

Therefore, contrary to Mwenda’s argument, facts do really matter especially during situations of false propaganda and tense moments with impending war outbreak.

Aggression

You cannot talk of an inevitable war without pointing out the aggressor and victim. In his June article, Mwenda argues that war between Rwanda and Uganda is inevitable. He, however, shows that the war will be accidental just precipitated by the existing tension between the two countries. This also contradicts his March article where he clearly pointed out that the aggressor was Uganda. This is where I suspect he was whipped into changing his line of argument.

In his March article, Mwenda brings out Museveni’s various areas of aggression.

  • “The problem between Rwanda and Uganda can be solved if Museveni upheld his core ideological position, i.e that regional integration is critical for Africa’s future, and that the differences are smaller compared to the strategic need for and benefit the cooperation”.
  • “The problem between Uganda and Rwanda – as I know it is the refusal of Kampala to listen to the concerns of Kigali and/or put her own grievances on the table for discussion”.
  • “Kigali has always wanted and actively sought to discuss these matters with Kampala. It has met with stone silence”.
  • “This situation could have been arrested long ago. However, all the efforts to begin a dialogue between the two countries have been thwarted by Uganda. The most serious one was mid last year when I worked with Gen Salim Saleh to send a delegation to Kigali or invite a Rwandan delegation to Kampala for discussions, We even agreed on the team of Ugandan officials. I talked to Kagame who readily nominated a team of officials to meet the Ugandan side. On the last minute, Museveni personally canceled the plan saying he will handle this matter directly with Kagame”.
  • “I personally tried several times to interest Museveni in the issues Rwanda was raising but he expressed indifference or paid leap service or said he will discuss them directly with Kagame, which he rarely did”.
  • “I am aware that whenever Museveni has met Kagame, he has never raised the issue of regime change by Kigali against him”.
  • “From my experience dealing with officials of the government of Rwanda, most especially Kagame personally, I have been struck by their desire and determination to build good relations with Uganda. Kagame personally treats good relations with Uganda to be of utmost strategic importance. …he has never wavered in his determination to pursue a better relationship with Kampala. Indeed, he has always been willing to bend backward to get this relationship to work. However, he is not willing to seek a good relationship on his knees”.
  • "What one gets from Kampala ‘s attitude towards Kigali is what Batooro call Omugayo- despise, undertook, disregard. Yet for all Museveni’s talk of regional integration and other strategic considerations, Kampala attitude towards Kigali only shows he is not willing to walk the talk”.

All these issues raised by Mwenda in his March article clearly show that Museveni is the flagrant aggressor, despite Kagame’s several attempts for rapprochement. Even Mwenda himself has attempted and failed and has expressed frustration. But it’s interesting how Mwenda in his June article believes the inevitable war would be accidental.

“We always forget that individuals often have defective control over events that can lead to war. Wars can erupt even when leaders on both sides are committed to avoiding them. One small incident, like happened last week, can escalate a quarrel to a standoff”.

Surely, it shouldn’t be Mwenda saying both Presidents are committed to avoiding war, after expressing the Rwandan grievances articulated both formally and informally and the failure of Ugandan side to articulate their grievances! After expressing that Rwandan appeals for talks have met ‘stone silence’ from Museveni! After emphasizing that Museveni cannot walk the talk! After articulating using his own Rutoro dialect of Museveni’s Omugayo- despise, disrespect for Rwanda!

Mwenda quotes Carl Von Clausewitz, that “War is the realm of uncertainty”. He argues that “Most factors that drive nations to war are based on information that is often not very certain; all too often leaders have to second- guess their opponents’ intentions”.

While Mwenda tells us with confidence that war between Rwanda and Uganda is inevitable, he again tries to convince us using the renown military strategist Clausewitz that war can break out accidentally.

I will remind him using the words of the same strategist that, “war is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means”.

The war between Uganda and Rwanda will not be accidental or arise out of uncertainty, as Mwenda wants us to believe when he quotes Clausewitz out of context. If Museveni shuns amicable solutions as Mwenda himself accuses him of; then he wants war; period. The war will only be a continuation of his long-held political program of regime change in Rwanda to fulfill his hegemonic ambitions.

Presidents and Heads of State are the Commanders-in-Chief of their militaries. They declare wars and sign armistices. Therefore, war cannot “erupt when leaders on both sides are committed to avoiding them”, as Mwenda is either deliberately, or out of ignorance trying to convince us.

Museveni is the root cause of the tension and conflict between Rwanda and Uganda and is the sole aggressor.

Can there be a solution and war be avoided?

Mwenda narrated in his March article how all the efforts of rapprochement by President Kagame and even by Mwenda himself have fallen on Museveni’s stony silence. Mwenda sits in the war room with Museveni and Gen Saleh according to his own confessions. “The most serious one was mid last year when I worked with Gen Salim Saleh to send a delegation to Kigali. “…even agreed on the team of Ugandan officials”. This shows how Mwenda is well placed in Museveni’s decision-making circle, especially on Rwandan matters.

Therefore, when Mwenda says the war between Rwanda and Uganda is inevitable, he is talking from the informed point of view. While many writers analyzing the existing tension between Uganda and Rwanda have concluded that an all-out war is not likely; I personally agree with Mwenda that war inevitable.

Firstly, since the Kisangani bloody war, Museveni has been nursing an all-out offensive on Rwanda. (See my articles on, “The root cause of tension and conflict between Uganda and Rwanda” and “Museveni caught in offensive –defensive dilemma”).

Secondly, the recent politicization of the smugglers incident- parading the dead to the selected diplomats from the neighboring countries and members of the Security Council.

This is in spite of the bilateral teams confirming that the incident took place inside Rwanda.
Thirdly, the politicization of Gatuna border closure despite the proof that its undergoing construction.

Forth, Museveni’s avoidance of peace talks and instead focusing on mobilization and preparation of his military and Reserve forces for war.

Fifth, the aggressive behavior of Museveni towards Rwanda is a clear recipe for war. Mwenda stated in his March article that, “The strategic deficit in Kampala’s thinking is reflected in the fact that to speak positively about the government of Rwanda generally, and Kagame particularly is considered unpatriotic in state house circles”. It wouldn’t be surprising therefore if such extreme hatred degenerates into war.

Lastly, now Mwenda who sits in Museveni’s war room has confirmed that the war is inevitable.

In conclusion, Mwenda’s June article goes contrary to his March article in all aspects. While in his March piece, he articulates the grievances of both Uganda and Rwanda with all the facts and evidence, concluding that Uganda was the aggressor, in his June article, he tries to convince us that though the war is inevitable facts do not matter and war could only happen accidentally. Mwenda only dwells on the smugglers incident to predict war which reflects a total change of mind and diversionary.

If the war between countries is unavoidable, the people are entitled to know why this war is taking place and this requires facts. Mwenda is known for always articulating facts and figures in all his presentations, but this time around he wrote his article under coercion to fall in line with the preparation for war.

I personally agree with Mwenda that war could be inevitable, but I know that the aggressor is Museveni despite Mwenda’s coerced change of mind. Rwanda is a victim of Museveni’s grandiose character and will only act in self-defense.

I will remind Mwenda of another renown military strategist, Sun Tsu who posited that, “The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking but rather on the fact that we have made our positions unassailable”.

Museveni is planning an all-out offensive on Rwanda; I believe Rwanda has made her positions unassailable.

The writer is a security expert In the Great Lakes Region.


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