President Paul Kagame has accused opposition figures in the diaspora of fueling the bad blood between Rwanda and Uganda, Chimp Corps report.
Kagame said Ugandan authorities are told lies about the works of Rwandans living in Uganda, leading to their arrest.
“We told Ugandans that, we respect your sovereignty… you are arresting Rwandans and the reasons you are giving don’t add up,” said Kagame.
“From the beginning, from the first group (Lt Rene Rutagungira) they arrested. But we told our brothers and sister there that, we actually know the story of where these arrests originate from. Even the source. It is the same people we have arrested; same organisations that are operating in neighbouring countries and beyond,” he added.
Rwanda has in recent months killed or arrested leaders of rebel movements including the diaspora-based Rwanda National Congress (RNC).
Some have been prosecuted in courts of law while the rest remain in custody.
Kagame said these suspected rebels have since provided evidence to show they were behind the maligning of Rwandans in Uganda.
This is the second time Kagame is blaming opposition groups for Uganda’s decision to arrest Rwandans.
Earlier this year, Kagame told the East African that Uganda opted to listen to rumours by Rwandan exiles in South Africa other than what Kigali was saying.
But government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo dismissed Kagame’s argument, saying Uganda has institutional mechanisms to gather intelligence as opposed to relying on rumours.
“It’s laughable for anybody to suggest that the government of Uganda does not have institutional mechanism to pick and process information and simply relies on rumours from perhaps Rwandan dissidents in South Africa or elsewhere,” said Opondo.
“If that was the case, government of Uganda would be at loggerheads with virtually every government around the world because in each of the countries around the world, there are people who bad mouth government of Uganda. The government of Uganda does not listen to dissidents or people who have disagreed with other countries around the world,” he observed.
Officials in Kigali say Rwanda’s main interest is Rutagungira – a former soldier arrested in 2018 alongside several Ugandan security personnel over the kidnap and forced repatriation of Rwandan refugees.
At the military court in Kampala, Rutagungira is accused of facilitating the illegal repatriation of Lt Joel Mutabazi, a former officer attached to the Rwanda Presidential Republican Guard.
Rutagungira is so special to the Rwandan establishment considering that he helped repatriate Mutabazi who was reportedly involved in a plot to assassinate Kagame.
Upon return to Rwanda, Mutabazi was charged with terrorism, murder, conspiracy to murder, and formation of an armed group, spreading rumors with intention to incite the public against the State, illegal possession of fire arms, forgery and desertion.
In Court, Mutabazi denied the accusations leveled against him.
Ugandan authorities have since refused to release Rutagungira, saying they have incriminating evidence against him.
Nevertheless, Kagame said the opposition groups continue to set up Rwandans in Uganda.
“They (exiles) started saying you know these Rwandans know we are here (Uganda). Or they have accused you of us operating from here. How did they get information? They must be getting information from Rwanda or by having Rwandans here. Then they are the ones who started showing government institutions – ‘this man must be working for government, is not you friend,’” said Kagame at the press briefing.
“Some of them here (arrested dissidents) or those released, were arrested (in Uganda) after being approached to be recruited in rebel groups. When they refused, they said, ‘it is because you are working with government, this must be an agent of Rwanda.’”
Kagame also seemed to suggest that all countries are involved in acts of espionage.
“The initial story we had been told was that these people are arrested because they are spies. Meaning Rwanda is interested in knowing things in Uganda. Of course the Implication is Uganda is not interested in knowing things in Rwanda. That spying is one way. I have not known history that tells me we have that situation happening one way, if it were to be true,” said Kagame.
“If you’ve people whom you think are there illegally or have committed crimes, are spying; do you really arrest people, pile them up in their hundreds and fail to put one in court of law and have them charged in courts of law? Just one? The moment you are not able to do that tells another story. This has always been our concern,” he added.
In a letter to Kagame, Museveni stopped short of accusing Rwanda of espionage.
“What is wrong is for Rwandan agents to try and operate behind the government of Uganda,” said Museveni.
Unlike at previous public functions, Kagame this time avoided a confrontational tone.
He labored to explain Kigali’s thoughts on the Uganda-Rwanda crisis, delving into details of how things went wrong.
Rwandan officials are expected in Kampala later this month for another round of talks to iron out their bilateral issues with Uganda.