A few days ago, tension engulfed the whole East Africa region especially after presidents Jakaya Kikwete and Paul Kagame openly showed their misconstrued differences. The whole story began May 26th in Addis Ababa when Kikwete urged DRC, Rwanda and Uganda to put their houses in order by talking to rebels in these countries. Kikwete’s piece of mind was warmly received by DRC and Uganda however it did not augur well with Rwanda which decided to hit back calling Kikwete names and other stuff. For the first time, Kikwete was labeled a genocider and an advocate of killers! One Rwandan journalist went a mile saying that Kikwete was Minister for Foreign Affairs during the 1994 genocide something that is a big lie.
As usual, the media in both sides reigned in instigating the two protagonists to take on each other. All of the sudden, the voice of reason escaped as the tug of war took over. As an African proverb goes, “Without impalas and hyenas, the lion cannot be the king of the jungle.” Two lions were at it while the hyenas sung their tunes of wars to them little knowing that African has many more important issues to deal with than war and toto self-destruction resulting from such wanton misunderstandings. Again, the impalas namely the citizenry were forgotten. It is sad to note that the media especially in Rwanda ignored the fact that there has nary been a winner in any war. Thus, the war between any nations ends up causing a lot of misery especially for common citizenry.
What failed the media and warmongers is the fact that Kikwete’s advice was just an advice that would have been ignored or worked without necessarily resulting into such salvos and spats. Even if there would have been conflicts between two countries, conflict is an inevitable part of human life. Instead of using conflicts destructively, it is better to use them constructively knowing that they are but natural phenomena. Rwanda and Tanzania do not need to destroy their dependent economies and peace by indulging in such megalomaniac confrontations.
Rwanda and Tanzania are traditionally connected and related. They were all under Germany colonial master before being handed over to France and Britain respectively after Germany lost in WWII.
In his speech on 24th July at Kaboya on Heroes Day in Kagera, Kikwete was quoted as assuring Tanzanians to go on with their business without any fear. He revisited what befell Idd Amin in 1978 when Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) defeated him so as to force him to flee Uganda. He said, “You have heard from the people we have entrusted our country’s security to. We will not allow anyone to play around with our sovereignty just as we did not allow Amin’s invasion.” According to Emanuel Nchimbi Minister for interior this rhetoric-cum-mantra has always been repeated on Mashujaa Day. This means that there was nothing converted in it.
Sadly again, this was misconstrued to mean what was in store for Kagame. Sensing the danger this misunderstanding would cause, Kikwete addressed the nation August 1st saying, “I have been shocked and dismayed at the verbal attack and criticism levelled against me by Rwandan officials,” Mr Kikwete said. “What they are doing and saying does not reflect the true position …. (it is) completely out of proportion and out of context.” Kikwete’s true stand brought relief to peace lovers all over the world. It is a sign of diplomacy, goodwill and civility to which, hopefully, Kagame will equally and timely reciprocate.
Those encouraging two countries to go to war should know that, shall the duo do, they’ll all lose. Instead of contemplating about war, the duo must sit down and iron out their difference. This will enable them to go ahead with the building of their respective countries and cooperation in the region. Methinks Kikwete used the precedents in which Tanzania advised former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana to negotiate peace with the then rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) that was led by Kagame. So too, Tanzania is the nest in which RPF was born. Refer to how RPF founder Fred Gisa Rwigema met with Yoweri Museveni a rebel leader then as they head for Mozambique to fight alongside with FRELIMO.
This brings us to the conclusion by Carlos Santayana (1863-1952) that those who don’t learn from history repeat it. The war between Tanzania and Uganda should act as a reminder that wars have no eyes and there is now winner in warring. Who wants to suffer another economic purgatory like the one that followed after deposing Amin? Please, Kagame take Kikwete’s olive branch and move forward.
The African Executive Magazine Aug., 7,2013.
Point of correction:
Rwanda was colonised by Belgium after WWI and not France as it was written.