Once staunch brothers-in-arms, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda's Paul Kagame seem to have fallen out with each other. What is the reason behind the current chilly atmosphere? Huck Stevo digs into the background to find an answer.
Rwanda, Uganda fight a cold war
They shared the common dream of becoming presidents of their countries. They pursued that dream from the barrel of the gun to its desired end. First, it was Yoweri Museveni who stormed to power in Uganda in 1986 after a five-year bloody bush war which Rwandan refugees living in his country helped him fight.
The war in Uganda's central region's 'Luweero Triangle' cost the lives of an estimated half a million people. The guerilla forces relied heavily on the Rwandan refugees, shaped by the years of suffering and statelessness into tough fighters. They were subsequently absorbed en masse into the Uganda national army, the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF), where they gained the experience for the imminent armed struggle to return to Rwanda.
It is not surprising that when Museveni came to power in 1986, the bulk of the UPDF's senior army officers were Rwandans. They included deputy army commander Maj.-Gen. Fred Rwigyema, Paul Kagame, who headed military intelligence, Maj. Dr Peter Baingana, who headed the army's directorate of medical services, Col. Chris Bunyenyezi, who was a field commander, and Maj. Frank Munyaneza, a mobile brigade commander. There were thousands more Rwandans recruited into the lower ranks of the UPDF.
Paul Kagame and his fellow refugees in the UPDF pursued their dream of capturing power in Kigali when they invaded Rwanda in October 1990. The disagreement between the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) rebel top commanders over strategy overshadowed the power struggle, which led to the assassination of rebel commander Maj.-Gen. Rwigyema on the first day of the invasion. He was killed by a sniper and his body secretly buried on the Uganda-Rwanda border.
Maj.-Gen. Rwigyema had wanted a guerilla war, similar to that launched by Museveni in Uganda in 1981. Commanders who opposed Rwigyema underestimated tne Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana's strength and preferred outright confrontation, a strategy that cost them their lives. All senior officers including Baingana, Bunyenyezi, Munyaneza perished in an ambush in the first month of the invasion. The rebel force, without commanders, had to retreat to Uganda.
At the time, Major Paul Kagame was on a course in...