THE TWISTS AND TURNS in the story of how Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have tangled and untangled over the last 35 years to create both the current face-off between Kigali and Dar es Salaam, and the crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo today as reported in CRISIS IN THE GREAT LAKES 1: For Rwanda Its Back To 1996…And For Tanzania Its Back To Uganda 1982 were only beginning.
We need to look south for a moment. In 1994 Nelson Mandela became president of a free and democratic South Africa, and the African National Congress (ANC) took power.
In the many years before Mozambique gained independence from the Portuguese in 1974 after a long liberation war, the armed wing of ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”), like several other Southern African resistance movements, was based in Tanzania. Tanzania paid a dear price in endless raids by the apartheid airforce, which was far superior to anything any African country then could throw at it.
The apartheid South African raids, many of them in Tanzania’s fertile south, combined with Nyerere’s socialist policies, to keep the country poor. That though, did not diminish Tanzania’s generosity or commitment to southern African liberation.
That long sacrifice forged a blood link with southern Africa (expressed today in Tanzania’s membership of the Southern Africa Development Community -SADC).
That is why the accusation that Tanzania is more committed to SADC than the five-member East African Community (EAC) is a little naïve and ignores history. Asking it to choose between the two is to demand that it walk away from itself.
Indeed the EAC could be said to a greater source of pain and betrayal to Tanzania than SADC. To appreciate this, it requires that we go back to 1974. At that time, Uganda’s Milton Obote, a close friend of Nyerere, was living in exile in Dar es Salaam. Uganda military dictator Idi Amin’s quarrels with Nyerere was reaching ridiculous levels. Not only did Amin, a former boxing champion, demand that he and Nyerere should enter a ring and fight to sort out their differences, but he also said if Nyerere were a woman, he would have married him!
In addition to Tanzania’s ideological – socialism vs. capitalism – difference with Jomo Kenyatta’s Kenya then, the EAC was facing the kind of stresses of the type we are seeing today. Eventually in 1977 it collapsed. Kenya had and kept the lion’s share of the EAC infrastructure, including its chunk of its shared telecommunications and airlines. Uganda got the next largest slice,
and Tanzania was left with little else beside the Dar es Salaam port.
Already having to contend with the scarcities of a socialist economy of that period, the break up of the EAC plunged Tanzania into a Dark Age. For a considerable period it had no international telephone connection, and struggled with airline traffic – the East African Airways was already becoming Kenya Airways. To raise money to build a new phone system, Nyerere slashed public services pay by 25 percent, and sent a struggling middle class into the abyss. The difficulties that followed wired resentment of the EAC into the DNA of a generation of Tanzanians – including people like Kikwete. Only time, and their passing, will truly heal it.
Poor, isolated, trying to rebuild its infrastructure after the collapse of the first EAC, and trying to take advantage reduced South African attacks after the independence of Mozambique, Tanzania fell down another economic hole again. It had to send its army into Uganda to kick out Amin in 1979 after his troops invaded and trashed the Akagera Salient. And President Jakaya Kikwete, who was head of Tanzania’s post-war intelligence operation in Uganda, had to see that mission end in bitterness in 1982—and ingratitude in 1986 when Museveni swept to power.
As we’ve already remarked, perhaps it is because unlike soldiers who take the blows and get more personally touched by war, Tanzania’s president Julius Nyerere, his successors Hassan Mwinyi and Ben Mkapa were able to be pragmatic about relations with Uganda – though perhaps less so with Kenya.
And Museveni did redeem himself considerably with South Africa and Tanzania soon after he came to power. That redemption started with events in 1984, two years before Museveni became president with the signing of the Nkomati Accord, a non-aggression pact, between Mozambique and apartheid South Africa. Under the accord Mozambique agreed to expel the ANC and to dismantle the camps and infrastructure of its armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”), while South Africa agreed to stop attacks on Mozambique and end its backing of the Mozambican National Resistance, Portuguese, Resistencia Nacional Mocambina, better known by its abbreviation RENAMO. Mozambique kept up its part of the deal, and two years down the road started shipping the ANC out of Mozambique.
But where would Umkhonto go, given that it could not relocate to a southern African country? Museveni, then still a revolutionary firebrand, had just become the Big Man in Uganda. He gave them a home.
If there was one man in these myriad of liberation movements whom Kikwete could relate to because they shared the same experience of intelligence chiefs who’ve had to bury their bitterness for the “bigger picture” as their political leaders cut political deals, it was Jacob Zuma.
Zuma was deputy Chief Representative of the ANC in Mozambique until the Mkomati Accords. When Umkhonto shipped out to Uganda, Zuma was forced to leave Mozambique and move to Lusaka. There he became Head of its Underground Structures, and then ANC’s Chief of Intelligence.
But Kikwete’s and Zuma’s moments hadn’t arrived yet. Mandela related to the RPF struggle and was outraged by the Rwanda genocide. He liked Kagame and Museveni. As someone put it, he “treated Kagame and Museveni like they were his sons”.
His successor Thabo Mbeki didn’t get along with Museveni, but was a buddy
of Kagame’s. No one would have guessed that things would change dramatically in South Africa in 2008. Zuma orchestrated a party coup against Mbeki and became president. In Tanzania Kikwete had become president in 2005. For the first time in Tanzania and South Africa, two men who had been at their sharp end reunited the liberation movements of past decades. The securitariat in South Africa and Tanzania, could finally claim their prizes.
How would the Zuma-Kikwete pairing of former intelligence chiefs imprint itself on the wider region? With Mandela ailing, and Mbeki out of the way, Kagame was no longer getting birthday cards from Pretoria.
The breaking point came in February 2010 when Lieutenant General Kayumba Nyamwasa, Rwanda’s former Chief of Staff and also ambassador to India fled to South Africa after Kigali accused him of being involved in terrorist activities.
The Kigali government accused Kayumba of working with Col. Patrick Karegeya, Rwanda’s former intelligence chief who had fallen out the powers back home and was living in exile in South Africa. In June 2010 Nyamwasa survived an assassination in Johannesburg. His wife, and later himself, accused the Kagame government of being behind the attack. Again, Rwanda denied the accusation, but the situation between Kigali and Pretoria degenerated badly months later when South African officials claimed that their investigations had established the Rwandese suspects to have been part of the hit squad were operative of Rwandan intelligence. The Rwanda government at that point basically asked South Africa to make a choice between it and the exiles. By the looks of it, Zuma chose his security friends (Kayumba and Karegeya).
While the likeable, generally charismatic, but according to his critics undisciplined, Karegeya was intelligence top dog in Rwanda, his closest friend was Kikwete who was Foreign minister then. Without being gossipy, the two men shared an active interest in the “good things of life”. With his friend president in Dar es Salaam, Karegeya soon was able to sojourn between Tanzania and South Africa, and found comfort and succor from the leaders of the two countries.
And so we are where we are today. Kikwete shares both the same intelligence and southern African liberation fellowship with Zuma. History has placed both men on different sides of the fence from Kagame’s Rwanda. But South Africa is far away from Rwanda, so Kigali needn’t have worried that it could do it harm.
That was not to be. Besides the personal relationships explored here, South Africa too changed. Mandela and Mbeki’s South Africa’s were always shy about their relations with the rest of Africa. Though by far the richest nation on the continent, Mandela and Mbeki didn’t want to be seen to be lording it over other African nations because then their South Africa would look like the one from the apartheid era. Also, because many countries had supported them during the anti-apartheid struggle, they were paralysed by gratitude.
Zuma started to change that. And in Tanzania, Kikwete started to shift from Tanzania’s post-1982-Uganda-campaign disdain for military intervention (its short stint in Comoros peacekeeping notwithstanding).
Even when Rwanda dipped its toes in peacekeeping in Darfur, and Uganda and Burundi – and eventually Kenya – plunged into the Somalia madness, Tanzania was the only EAC nation that stayed out on dry land. Yet today it has its troops in the bitter conflict of the DRC.
And that presents us with the first issue fuelling Rwanda and Tanzania tensions: the fact that Rwanda considers Tanzania a Trojan horse for South Africa’s designs against the Kagame government. And, secondly, that the two have chosen a battlefield close to Rwanda, DRC, to fight this proxy war.
What changed? Why did Zuma abandon the Mandela-Thabo Mbeki era reticence? Is it really true that Kikwete has thrown his geopolitical lot with SADC, and if so why? How come Kenya, a country that has strived to calm the resentment from the break up of the EAC in 1977 by remaining neutral in East African feuds, is in Kagame’s and Museveni’s corner? The questions are endless, and we examine them in the continuation of the series.
GREAT LAKES CRISIS PARTS 3 AND 4 TO BE CONTINUED…