Why is Kagame at loggerheads with neighbours?

Author:Ojulu, Epajjar
Position:Analysis: Rwanda - Paul Kagame - Essay

Rwanda's Paul Kagame is lauded as an arch pan-Africanist but his relations with neighbouring countries have become fraught. He has accused some of them, including former close allies, of harbouring dissidents set on toppling his administration. What is the reality behind the rhetoric? Analysis by Epajjar Ojulu.

Rwanda and President Paul Kagame were once again in the global spotlight as, last month, the country marked the 25th anniversary of the genocide with a week of mourning and remembrance. Kagame said that nothing on earth could turn Rwandans against Rwandans ever again.

But while extolling the strides the country has made, especially in resuscitating the economy, enforcing public accountability and initiating pro-poor people programmes, he gave a stark warning to "those who think our country has not seen enough of a mess, and want to mess with us. We will mess up with them big time ... big time."

He added: "Rwanda is a very good friend to those who befriend us but adversaries should not underestimate what a formidable force we have become as a result of our circumstances."

This was fighting talk aimed squarely at some of Rwanda's neighbours as well as countries as far afield as South Africa. For a while now, he has been accusing some countries of either colluding with Rwandan dissidents to destabilise the country or giving them sanctuary.

As he spoke, the country borders with Uganda and Burundi were for all practical purposes closed. At the beginning of March the Rwandan government barred traffic from Uganda from going through the main border point at Gatuna. Rwanda-destined traffic from Uganda was diverted to Cyanika, the border point near the DR Congo border.

Rwandan officials claimed traffic was diverted to allow ongoing road construction on the Gatuna-Kigali highway. But motorists said they were turned away from other border points as well. Only vehicles belonging to Rwanda, or other countries such as Kenya and DR Congo, were allowed entry.

Rwanda also barred its citizens from travelling to Uganda because Uganda, according to Rwanda's foreign minister, Richard Sezibera, was arresting, torturing and incarcerating them in detention for refusing to join anti-Rwanda dissidents.

Kagame accuses Burundi and Uganda of being hand in glove with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDRL), comprised mainly of the Interahamwe, a Hutu-led militia blamed for the 1994 genocide in which over 800,000 mainly Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed; and the Rwanda National Congress, led by Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa.

Burundi has denied the accusations and counter-accused Rwanda of training Burundi rebels to oust the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Reuters reported in February 2016 that a confidential UN report by experts presented to the Security Council accused the Rwandan...

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