By Godwin Agaba
Outcomes from the Katuna/ Gatuna border meeting of the four Presidents of DR Congo (Tshisekedi), Angola (João Lourenço), Rwanda (Paul Kagame) and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni are still sinking into the minds of most observers.
A sizeable section of them expected the border opening as the most immediate outcome of the meeting. Failure to reopen it left them skeptical about the whole idea of the meeting and whether Uganda and Rwanda had a future as good neighbors, once again.
As of now, nobody knows for sure what to expect because Rwanda has been very candid and pointed in its demands as opposed to Uganda which appears to want to maintain diplomatic composure i.e tagging along without being seen to upset any steps towards restoration of normalcy.
Museveni, as a legendary master planner, must be up to something more rewarding or conclusive than just setting tough terms for the other side to grapple with.
Looking at the deliverables registered from the meeting, the matter of the Extradition Treaty, signed between the principal antagonists, Uganda and Rwanda, to me is a scoop for Uganda. Why?
True, Rwanda has always benefitted from some kind of arrangement to have dissidents sent back to face charges back home. Under Kayihura, Rwanda benefitted a lot if we recall stories of fugitives who were dispatched back like Lt. Mutabazi and numerous others.
I don’t recall which fugitives Uganda needed back in return, which suggests that it was a one-way benefit affair, and informal if not outright criminally-procured.
The Treaty that was signed at Katuna /Gatuna is formal and fits in the format of treaties operated by modern countries as a mechanism of tracking and bringing criminal elements to book wherever they may be. Whoever planned for the Treaty to be signed it helped Uganda. If it is implemented, it will be a long-lasting solution for a problem that Uganda has put up with for decades.
That is why I feel that Uganda’s stance in the conflict with Rwanda is managed by a super chess master.
Since the 1959 revolution in Rwanda which sent large numbers of refugees scampering for safety across regional borders, Uganda has played host to such groups with no end in sight.
Rwandans are always on move, for one reason or another; during Habyarimana’s time, they fled as signs of looming ethnic cleansing showed.
After, Habyarimana’s fall, many genocidaires fled, taking the Uganda route to make an escape.
Today, many Rwandans have been crisscrossing Uganda for safe refuge. Because of the historical links and social networks built over time, they found it easier to hide in Uganda because they could be mistaken for Banyankore or Ugandan Banyarwanda who are constitutionally recognized among Uganda’s ethnic groups.
The result has been deep infiltration of Uganda’s society by rogue agents posing as settlers who have used the free reign to engage in activities partly responsible for the bad blood that has torn the two countries apart.
Instead of getting integrated, they have become a thorn in the side of Ugandans.
With the Katuna Treaty, anybody found with a mark of criminality or anyone who gains illegal entry and stay in Uganda will automatically get shipped back home without the fear that Uganda will be accused of persecuting citizens of another country. It will ease undue pressure on Uganda and serve as a deterrent for infiltrators and their cells.
Rwanda has gone into the pact willingly and can only renege on it at the risk of betraying its lack of commitment to peace with Uganda.
Uganda does not have much interest in extraditions from Rwanda because few Ugandans, if not none, flee to Rwanda other than normal work, business or visits.
If in future bad elements use Rwanda as their base to destabilize Uganda, then Kampala will have taken care of their delivery to its temples of justice.
Ugandans are not worried about the Treaty.
Those who know its implications are happy while Rwandans who think of it as targeting RNC members are mistaken because in the future they may find themselves netted if they do not watch their actions while on Ugandan soil. While the border is still closed, persona-non-grata based in Uganda will find it “too open” if they are caught.