-Rwanda President Paul Kagame and his Tanzanian counterpart, Jakaya Kikwete had an opportunity to meet and listen to each other’s grievances, a move observers say could put the relations between the two countries back on track.
Presidents Kagame and Kikwete meeting at Commonwealth Resort, Munyonyo, Kampala on Thursday
The two feuding leaders on Thursday held separate meetings at Commonwealth Resort, Munyonyo in Kampala under the auspices of the ICGLR.
According to Presidential Communications Assistant, Sarah Kagingo, five leaders held a meeting in one room to discuss issues that affect the region.
These were Presidents Museveni, Kikwete, Kagame, South Sudan’s Salva Kiir and Joseph Kabila.
During the meeting, sources have told Chimpreports, leaders extensively discussed the M23-led Congo rebellion.
It is widely believed that Rwanda backs the M23 rebel group that has since put up a stiff resistance against the DRC forces and threatened to topple President Kabila.
Kigali vehemently denies the charge, saying it does not benefit from violence across its border.
It is reported that the mood was at first very tense, with Kikwete and Kagame not looking eye to eye.
It is important to note that Kikwete, whom many believe has never supported Kagame’s Presidency right from 1994 when he was Tanzania’s foreign minister, recently deployed a contingent of guerilla-trained soldiers to help Kabila defeat the M23.
M23 provides a buffer zone for Rwanda against FDLR, a DRC-based militia which draws its leadership and militants from perpetrators of the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
It is also whispered in diplomatic circles that Kikwete is a supporter of FDLR.
Therefore a fight between Tanzanian and M23 means a clash of interests between Kigali and Dar es Salaam.
During the Munyonyo meeting, Museveni relied on his humour to break the tension in the room.
Museveni is hugely respected by the regional leaders due to his vast experience in regional conflicts.
He participated in liberation struggles in the 1970s in Mozambique, then joined Ugandans in Tanzania to fight Milton Obote and Amin before sending troops to DRC in the 1990s to remove Presidents Mobutu and Laurent Kabila.
The Uganda army has as well been actively involved in military operations in South Sudan, Central Africa Republic and Somalia.
Therefore, a high placed source noted, Museveni used all techniques at his disposal to convince the leaders that they “must look at each other as partners if they are to solve Congo’s unending problems.”
Museveni was also candid enough to explain that the militants in DRC were not only a threat to Rwanda but also Uganda, South Sudan and even Burundi.
Museveni further said the people of East Africa need to put in place infrastructure projects to spur development but this could only be possible after total stabilization of eastern DRC.
He revealed that there were many areas near the Congo- Uganda border that are infested with terrorists.
Museveni in fact commended President Kabila and the Congo Government for eliminating Cobra, a deadly rebel commander who had made it a habit to terrorize the area near Bunia.
Leaders also discussed the allegations of Tanzania and DRC backing FDLR to destabilize Rwanda.
Rwanda had made it clear that it would not look on idly as FDLR, which has a record of masterminding the slaughter of one million people in 90 days in 1994, be allowed to rearm, reorganize and carry out drills near its border.
Kigali’s position that it would not hold negotiations with FDLR remains unchanged, with Kagame insisting that the perpetrators of the genocide must meet the victims and apologise for their wrong deeds.
It was then agreed that all forms of support to regional militants cease. This would eventually lead to an end in the violence and pave way for a political solution to the crisis.
President Kabila reportedly said all he wanted to see in DRC was peace and prosperity for his people.
He also accepted the idea of halting all military operations against M23 to pave way for peace talks.
Leaders said the M23 combatants who are so knowledgeable about the terrain of eastern DRC could as well be reintegrated in the army and their potential exploited to fight other militias in the region especially ADF and FDLR.
The expulsion of illegal immigrants, who included thousands of Rwandans, from the Kagera border area was also extensively discussed.
Kikwete’s view was that the area had turned into a hub of armed criminals who were terrorizing the local population.
Leader further discussed the bombing of Rwandan territory by the DRC forces, leading to the death of a woman in Rubavu district.
It was agreed that the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism must complete the verification process and provide a report to the Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers of Defence.
Kikwete and Kagame were urged to refrain from attacking each other in public or through the media.
A source said that by the time the leaders finished their meeting, it was very clear that they were ready to bury the hatchet and move forward as partners in fostering development of their people.
Kagame and Kikwete also had a bilateral meeting but what was discussed remains unclear to this investigative website.
Shortly after this meeting, Rwanda President’s Communications Director, Yolande Makolo said “President Kagame and President Kikwete had a productive meeting today and are both pleased to be moving forward positively.”
Observers say should the leaders walk the talk and action taken against militants hiding in eastern Congo, the Great Lakes region could be saved from a regional