Paul Kagame vs. Jakaya Kikwete
In April, Kagame said: “I didn’t realise that things were so bad between us and Tanzania that when we talk to each other it becomes headline news.
they have just avoided confrontation
“But yes, we are all in the East African Community, we work for one common objective of integration.
“People may have different views about different issues, but at the end of the day the interests are the same. There are common objectives.”
In reality, the two countries are competing for regional influence.
In May 2013, Kikwete said that Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC should launch parlays with rebels in eastern DRC in order to resolve the region’s long-running armed conflicts.
In response, Uganda reportedly expressed willingness to talk, while the Kinshasa government appears not have made a response – at least not openly.
The Rwandan government, however, reacted furiously to what were termed “shocking” and “aberrant” remarks and reiterated its policy ruling out talks with the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR).
The standoff further escalated with both countries recalling their envoys last year and reappointing new ones.
The processes to accredit them stalled as relations between the two nations reached their nadir.
With tensions high, Rwanda also joined the Coalition of the Willing, the East African Community group proposing faster integration that also includes Uganda and Kenya.
Rwanda now supports what is called the Northern Corridor, having abandoned most of the projects it was pursuing with Dar es Salaam along the Central Corridor.
For his part, Kikwete has maintained that he has no problem with Rwanda and that he was surprised that his suggestion was met with such vitriol.
While problems between the two countries appear to have started with President Kikwete’s 2013 statement, insiders say the standoff stems from things that have remained largely unsaid, at least in public.
“It will take a generational change of leadership in Tanzania for these two countries to reconcile. Kikwete has only softened because he is leaving office and has nothing to lose […].
“These countries have had major disagreements since Mwalimu Julius Nyerere left power, but they have just avoided confrontation,” a retired Rwandan diplomat says, pointing out that tensions between the two countries escalated when Tanzania expelled 910 Rwandan refugees in 2003.
More recently, in mid-2013, Tanzania expelled thousands of Rwandan refugees who were referred to as “illegal immigrants,” a move that was viewed by the Rwanda government as politically motivated.
Also at the centre of the recriminations are two groups: the FDLR and the Rwanda National Congress led by former senior Rwandan military officers now in exile.
In particular, the late Colonel Patrick Karegeya is said to have developed a close relationship with Kikwete when Karegeya was a senior intelligence officer.
If Kagame and Kikwete can look beyond the past and towards a future of integration, perhaps they will find a way to work together. ●