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IAN ORTEGA: Museveni is the thin-lining holding Uganda, Rwanda from engaging in war

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President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame (PHOTO /Courtesy)

The Uganda-Rwanda war is inevitable. It will happen. It is just a matter of time. Only war will solve the Uganda-Rwanda standoff, nothing else.

Yoweri Museveni is keeping his cards close to the chest. And this is what is worrying Paul Kagame. Everyone fears a silent Museveni. He is the master of war. He plays a long game. He has eventually won every war he got involved in. With Bashir, he left him with a divided country. With Obote, with Amin, he has always been at the top of the game.

For Kagame, he must provoke Museveni into drawing one of his cards. For that will determine how he reacts in this game. For now, Rwanda is in guess work coupled with paranoia. So Kagame will always have to say a thing or two in his speeches, he will have to close a border, he will have to stop Rwanda Airlines from plying the Entebbe route. It is a tactical move to either bring Museveni to the discussion table or force him to make the first serious move aka draw a major card.

And you must understand Rwanda’s dilemma. They face an existential crisis. They are an Israel. They have no option but to always be on the look out. To always hunt their opponents wherever they are found. Rwanda lacks the most important thing; strategic depth. It is easy to run down and takeover its capital. Rwanda has a thin margin of error. Regardless of who gets to be President of Rwanda, they will have to function in that style. The context of Rwanda imposes certain requirements. Rwanda survives through paranoia. As a President of Rwanda, you can’t risk having your enemies operate scotfree. You must hunt them everywhere and exterminate them. It is not an option, it is a mandatory.

A small country surrounded by neighbors it is not certain of. Most of the neighbors of Rwanda are either hostile or lukewarm. Rwanda must always be hair trigger. Also be reminded that this is a country that came to the brink of collapse. Everything was destroyed. It was rebuilt from scratches. The 1994 Rwanda Genocide against the Tutsi cannot be ignored. We must understand Rwanda in the context of its existential threats. It is from this position that Kagame acts.

Now comes in Museveni and Uganda. Uganda has always presumed a superiority complex while dealing with Rwanda. Worse, there is also a complex dynamic of Rwanda and Banyarwanda as a tribe in Uganda. Uganda thinks Rwanda should submit to it. Rwanda wants to stand independently. But Rwanda also wants access to pick out wrong elements in Uganda. Uganda cannot afford to let Rwanda play at will here. There is also a regional fight, each of the two countries wants to be the regional superpower. And this question must be settled early enough. It is a question that previous Kisangani debacles have failed to settle.

Once again, it also looks like whoever wins Eastern Congo will take the day. UPDF is back to DRC. Kenya will soon head to DRC. Rwanda has no option but to play in DRC, especially for its existential threats. It also explains why Uganda will construct roads in Eastern DRC. It must subtly annex that section.

Whether Museveni and Kagame die, the next Presidents of both countries will face the same challenge. And it looks like only war can settle these questions. As for now, Museveni is the thin-line holding both countries from engaging in war!

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