Are Tanzania, Rwanda sounding war drums?
Source: The Monitor
The media in Rwanda is working itself into frenzy on disparaging President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania; ditto for the Tanzanian fringe media.
This tiff between Rwanda and Tanzania began in Ethiopia when President Kikwete suggested that Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi should hold peace talks with armed rebels opposed to their governments.
The reaction from Rwanda was frontal and stinging; some say the language used was in the neighbourhood of the declaration of war. Since then, the media in the two countries have engaged in a competitive bid to outdo each other.
The last time I checked, the Rwandan media claimed that President Kikwete was from Burundi that he was a Hutu. His wife was also filially linked to former President Habyarimana’s wife. Quoting a leaked US Embassy cable, the media in Rwanda reported that Kikwete’s wife was a cousin to the late Habyarimana’s wife.
All that was aimed at whipping the passions of Rwandans against President Kikwete and Tanzanians.
Same kind of vitriol is issuing from Tanzanian media. In his end-of-month address for July, President Kikwete said although he felt insulted personally, he would not fight Rwanda. But one of the Tanzanian media outlets carried a story headlined: ‘Kagame hatatoka hai’ (Kagame will leave alive).
Matters came to a head when recently Tanzania expelled all non-citizens. In the circumstances, it is easy to connect the expulsion of Banyarwanda pastoralists (not necessarily Rwandan citizens) to the recent diplomatic spat between Rwanda and Tanzania.
But Tanzania expelled non-citizens: be they Burundians, Rwandans or Ugandans. Plus, this was not the first time Tanzania had done it. It did it in 2000, 2006 and
However, all this plays into regional geo-politics. Rwanda will have elections in 2017 in which President Paul Kagame currently does not qualify to run.
Although the possibility of changing the Constitution to allow Kagame run for office is very probable, for now he is constitutionally barred from standing for
president in 2017.
President Jakaya Murish Kikwete is serving his last term of office and he is unlikely to seek a third term. He is also constitutionally barred from running for office after the end of his current term.
In spite of accusations of xenophobia, Tanzanians are consistent with their stubborn nationalism and sceptical regional outlook. My strategic advice is that Rwandan would be well-advised to chill and wait Kikwete out.
What Rwanda needs now is to study the political dynamics in Tanzania and diplomatically leverage into the political process leading to Kikwete’s departure from office.
It worked for Rwanda during the transition from Nelson Mandela to Thabo Mbeki in South Africa.
Appropriately reading into the political dynamics, Kagame ‘friended’ Thabo Mbeki at a personal level.
The diplomatic benefits from such a relationship were massive and known in the region. Until Thabo Mbeki was ousted, Rwanda enjoyed a cordial relationship with South Africa.
But President Kikwete deserves some ‘reprimand’ of sorts. How could he advise an African leader? Is Kikwete so ‘unclever’ to know that advising African leaders is a preserve of Western powers like the US and UK?
I can bet my inheritance that if that advice to talk to the rebels had come from Europe or America, Rwanda’s reaction would not have been the same.
Yet we all know that there exists some engagement, albeit informal, between rebels and the Government of Rwanda. This engagement has led to the defection or surrender of some senior rebel leaders.
Gen Marcel Gatsinzi, the man who signed my Deportation Order from Rwanda in 2002, was a former ‘Habyarimana’ soldier; as was a Gen. Paul Rwarakabije, the current head of Rwanda’s prison service.
Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of East Africa Flagpost