KIGALI – Rwanda President Paul Kagame has said that Uganda cannot afford to go to war with Rwanda because of the long-term costs involved.
In an interview with TAZ newspaper in Belgium on June 19, Mr Kagame said he is aware of the effects of the tensions on the economies of the two countries.
“Any tension will necessarily affect the stability of the economy, of trade, of all kinds of things. There is no question about it. That’s why we don’t need tension at all. But with politics, we always see these things in any part of the world! We have had an easy relationship for many years. The tension comes and goes. We hope one day we can get rid of it forever. This time around is part of this history,” he said.
In February, Rwanda closed its borders with Uganda, accusing the latter of arresting it’s citizens and supporting rebels to overthrow the Kigali government.
On June 19, Mr Kagame added that despite the two neighbouring countries enjoying historical cordial relations, Kampala does not respect Kigali as a sovereign state.
“We have seen Uganda getting involved in supporting (armed) groups against us because they (in Kampala) think we don’t stand for the interests of Uganda. They just don’t appreciate that Rwanda has a different government and would wish Rwanda to pay allegiance to them, something like that,” he said.
According to Mr Kagame, Uganda has continued to provoke his country by arresting its citizens without justification.
“We see people being arrested in Uganda. We have Rwandese in their hundreds, actually in prison in Uganda. Uganda keeps telling all kinds of stories, they say these people are here illegally, that these are spies … And we have raised this because we have collected information about it and then they say: how do you know these details? It is because you (Rwandan government officials) have people here (in Uganda) and in fact, they (the Ugandan officials) say they are against us. But the arrests have been indiscriminate: they arrest women, men, young people, they even picked some pupils from schools.”
The Rwandan leader added that meetings with Ugandan officials have not helped.
“The last time I met with (Ugandan president) Museveni, I said these accusations have no credibility. Two hundred people were arrested, they failed to charge even one. That shows the magnitude of the problem. That resulted in fact in us telling people not to go to Uganda. And we cannot tell Uganda what to do. We have asked them, we have begged them, we have even told them it is ok, if you have people in custody who committed offences, bring them to the courts of law, don’t keep them in prison. People come and tell us they have been in prison for nine months or a year, for nothing. But we have kept calm. People fear to fight between us. I don’t see it coming because I think Uganda understands the cost of it. We don’t want to go down that road because everyone will lose something,” he added.
Mr Kagame also said that the opposition leaders in exile are a media creation.
Faustin Twagiramugu and Paul Rusesabagina’s group made a call for unity of the opposition. What do you make of this?
“They are a creation of the media more than anything (laughter). These things have been there forever. So, I don’t look at one side as the media does. I look at all sides. There were more people at the place where we were, ten times more than for Twagiramungu’s group, getting aware about the progress Rwanda is making. And I am looking at those Rwandans, saying what we are doing is what we should be doing. This is for me the message. Secondly: These people, Twagiramungu and Rusesabagina, they are there in Europe, using the generosity of the Belgians, turning themselves into democrats, civil society that is fighting for freedom. But they are just a bunch of hooligans! OK, but I can understand also Europeans sometimes, and I forgive them. It is like they are looking at Rwanda’s progress, they don’t like Kagame for whatever reason and they can’t stop us making progress, and there is nothing they can do about Kagame. So they think the best way to attack is to back this group.”