Rwanda President Paul Kagame arrives in Uganda tomorrow Sunday, a move seen as an attempt to smooth tensions between Kampala and Kigali.
The two leaders are expected to hold a meeting at State House Entebbe.
“President Paul Kagame of Rwanda is expected in Uganda tomorrow for a one-day working visit,” said the presidential spokesperson, Don Wanyama on Saturday.
The rising tensions between the two countries have since worried investors and created uncertainty in the region.
The Rwandan government accuses Uganda of facilitating the movement of suspected dissidents in East Africa, claims Kampala denies.
In a diplomatic note, Rwanda last year said its “most concerning” issue is the “facilitation of recruitment and travel in the region of Rwandans in possession of Ugandan travel documents, of whom are mostly from refugee camps in Uganda, for the benefit of the terrorist group known as Rwanda National Congress (RNC).”
Rwanda further added: “Information in our possession has revealed that this network has intentions to cross from Uganda into Tanzania and eventually end up in DRC in the RNC camps.”
In the protest letter, Kigali also denounced what it described as “Multiple unjustified arrests, failure to notify the Diplomatic representation of Rwanda in Uganda and mistreatment of Rwandan citizens in Uganda in the last several months.”
On the other hand, Uganda maintains it’s cracking down on suspected Rwandan spies harassing Rwandan refugees and threatening national security.
Some of the suspected Rwandans have been deported by Ugandan armed forces while those facing serious charges are tried before courts of law.
Asked to contextualize the diplomatic note in the wake of recent events that have threatened the two countries’ relations, Mugoya stressed: “Relations go beyond arrests. If there are some suspects involved in crimes, they can be arrested.”
He, however, reassured that that the bilateral relations with Rwanda are “okay.”
Kampala has previously expressed unease over the loss of jobs of its citizens employed in major parastatals and even private enterprises in Rwanda.
Some of the affected Ugandans had occupied high profile positions in the private and government bodies for many years.
These include Vivian Igunduura, the deputy Managing Director of Cogebanque – the third largest bank in Rwanda.
Beatrice Kibwika Kantono, who was working with MTN Rwanda as an Information Technology Audit/Risk Manager, was asked to quit.
A one Ojongoro who was employed as Chief Finance Officer of National Bank of Rwanda had his contract terminated last October.
Officials said “everything is done verbally,” adding, “No reason is given for not renewing the Ugandans’ work permits.”
This is likely to be a major topic when Museveni meets with Kagame in Uganda.
Rwanda had quietly protested the appointment of Security Minister Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde, saying he exhibited a hostile attitude towards the Kigali government.
Tumukunde was recently sacked alongside the police chief, Gen Kale Kayihura.
Until recently, Uganda’s relations with Rwanda were so strong that cross border trade was valued at $200m.
But the last few years saw the ties weakened as Rwandan media outlets launched attacks on the Ugandan government and its senior officials including President Museveni, his brother Gen Salim Saleh, Lt Gen Tumukunde and Military Intelligence chief Brig Abel Kandiho.
Matters were worsened by Rwanda Defence Minister Gen James Kabarebe’s alleged comments about Uganda. He reportedly told several congregations that Uganda was an enemy of Rwanda.
Some officials who consulted with him say he denied making the remarks.
It is suspected the two leaders will as well discuss claims that Philbert Rujugiro, a wealthy Rwandan businessman dealing in the tobacco industry in Uganda, is involved in plans to topple Kagame.
Rujugiro, whose impact is felt not only in Uganda but also Eastern DRC and Zambia, recently, expanded his footprint in Uganda by launching what he described as a “$20m tobacco development investment” in Arua, Northern Uganda.
The project comprising the USD8 million factory, USD10 million, leaf-grower program, and USD2 million food crops and forestry development, has been operational since 2015/2016.
Kigali says Rujugiro funds Rwanda National Congress (RNC), a Diaspora-based opposition party led by dissident General Kayumba Nyamwasa who has expressed intention to topple president Kagame. But in a statement, the company dismissed the claims as baseless.
Observers say Kagame’s visit is a continuation of previous bilateral meetings with President Museveni in Ethiopia.
Museveni recently directed his security advance team to return from Kigali where he was expected to attend the African Union meeting of heads-of-state on the African Free Trade Area.
This was after Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo used a press conference in Kigali just days before the AU function to blast the Ugandan government for the “continued mistreatment of Rwandans” in Uganda.
Museveni cancelled the trip before sending Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa as his envoy.
It’s hugely anticipated the two leaders, who fought together in several wars, will extensively discuss these concerns with the view of having an amicable settlement.