Rwanda, Uganda commit to normalize relations

KIGALI, Rwanda  

Rwanda and Uganda began talks on Monday to end tensions between the two countries, with delegates from each side reaffirming their government’s commitment to restoring normal relations.

The Ugandan delegation in the meetings held in the Rwandan capital Kigali was led by Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa while Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s minister of state in charge of East African affairs led the Rwandan team.

The talks came weeks after Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni signed a memorandum of understanding in the Angolan capital Luanda on Aug. 21, aimed at easing tensions between the two countries.

The meeting in Kigali was also attended by Angola’s Minister of External Relations Manuel Domingos Augusto and Gilbert Kankonde, deputy Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as representatives of the Angolan and DRC Presidents — both mediators of the talks.

“Rwanda and Uganda share historical ties that should normally build a strong strategic alliance given the long standing bonds linking the two peoples and countries. As neighbors and partner states of the East African Community we share a common vision of peace, security and economic integration,” Nduhungirehe said at the opening.

“Rwanda is fully committed to the realization of the objectives of the memorandum of understanding,” he added.

He described the memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries in Luanda as an important milestone towards sustainable peace and security in the region.

Nduhungirehe underlined that the sides should collectively commit to the memorandum signed in Luanda so it is the final and decisive process that will normalize ties and bring back trust and confidence between the two sisterly countries.

He implored both countries to view the talks as a new opportunity and momentum for normal relations between the two nations.

“Much as the signing was important its good faith implementation is the decisive factor. This is what our citizens expect from us,” said Nduhungirehe.

Kutesa stressed that Kampala was devoted to the implementation of the Luanda pact and “looked forward to working with Rwanda and facilitators to resolve outstanding issues.”

He expressed confidence that a tangible solution to issues affecting Uganda’s relationship with Rwanda would emerge from these meetings.

Josiane Mukeshimana, a Rwandan businesswoman engaged in cross-border business, told Anadolu Agency that the public expected the talks would produce tangible results.

“Rwanda and Uganda have more in common socially and economically than what divides them. Socially, citizens have relatives on either side of the border. There should be no animosity between the two countries,” she said.

The talks took place in a frank and cordial atmosphere, according to a joint statement released after the meeting signed by both Nduhungirehe and Kutesa.

Both parties reiterated their commitment to refraining from any destabilizing acts against each other, it said.

Relations between the two countries soured in recent months following accusations and counter accusations of espionage and political meddling.

At the height of the tensions earlier this year, Rwanda blocked cargo trucks from Uganda from entering its territory from the main crossing point at their common border at Gatuna, saying it was due to construction work at the border.

Rwanda also stopped its citizens from crossing to Uganda over allegations of arbitrary detentions of Rwandans and torture in Uganda, accusations Kampala denies.
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