Uganda: President Museveni Appoints ex-Joint Chief of Staff, Maj Gen Rusoke, as Ambassador to Rwanda, Col Mwesigye New Envoy to Tanzania

Uganda: President Museveni Appoints ex-Joint Chief of Staff, Maj Gen Rusoke, as Ambassador to Rwanda, Col Mwesigye New Envoy to Tanzania
Retired Major General Robert Rusoke

In a reshuffle of diplomats announced on Sunday evening, President Museveni appointed a military general as Uganda’s top diplomat to Rwanda.

Maj Gen Robert Rusoke, who has been serving as commander of the joint Covid-19 task force, replaces Amb Oliver Wonekha who was transferred to Beijing, China.

The appointment comes at a time of simmering tensions between Uganda and Rwanda over counter accusations of supporting armed movements in the region.

Rusoke, an experienced diplomat, previously served as Uganda’s Ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan.

Prior to that appointment, he served as the Joint Chief of Staff of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces.

He is expected to use his diplomatic skills to find a long lasting solution to the endless squabbles between Uganda and Rwanda.

Officials who talked to ChimpReports on Monday morning said Rusoke is a “cool-headed diplomat,” adding, “He is mature and not confrontational at all.”

However, Rusoke is not the only high ranking military officer to be deployed in the region as a diplomat.

Museveni yesterday appointed former Nyabushozi MP Rtd Col Fred Mwesigye as Uganda’s Ambassador to Tanzania, replacing Amb Richard Kabonero, a career diplomat.

Retired Colonel Fred Mwesigye

In Tanzania, the deputy Ambassador is Maj Gen Geoffrey Muheesi while in Burundi, its Major Gen Matayo Kyaligonza – all NRA historicals.

But observers say Museveni’s appointment of Gen Rusoke could have been a response to Rwanda’s appointment of Col Joseph Rutabana, an intelligence officer and former Defence and Military Attaché to South Africa.

To many in the Ugandan establishment, Rwanda remains a serious national security threat.

It is understood the deployment of Ugandan troops to North Kivu to fight IS-linked terror outfit, ADF, has unsettled Rwanda.

Strategic depth

In Kigali, officials fear that UPDF’s mission in DRC threatens its geopolitical interests.  Rwanda has always relied on militias such as M23 to counter rebel outfits including FDLR.

But most importantly, Rwanda has for decades used DRC territory to challenge Uganda militarily. Rwanda lacks what is known as ‘strategic depth’ –  the distance between the front lines or battle sectors and the combatants’ industrial core areas, capital cities, heartlands, and other key centers of population or military production.

For example, Rwanda knows that a direct military confrontation with Uganda would put its capital city, Kigali, in in the crosshairs of Uganda’s military fire.

Therefore, a fight in DRC between the two countries would only destroy towns in Congo as it was the case in Kisangani.

This is why Rwanda has for long wanted to retain indirect control of eastern Congo.

But with Uganda and DRC armies jointly building roads and mobilising the populations to their cause, Rwanda may not look on idly as Museveni’s influence grows in the eastern region of DRC.

Rusoke now has a job of persuading Kigali that Uganda has no plans of using the military operation in DRC to destabilise Rwanda.

“Rusoke’s job is not an easy one,” said a well placed source who preferred anonymity to speak freely. “He will have to do a lot to restore the worsening bilateral relations between the two countries because Rwanda is suspicious of UPDF’s moves in the region.”

In 2019, Rwanda’s government closed the Katuna border crossing with Uganda,redirecting haulage vehicles on a 110km diversion, before closing further border points and curtailing trade between the two neighbours.

Initial justifications for the closure centred on renovations to the crossing, but quickly came to encompass allegations of mistreatment of Rwandans in Uganda.

Uganda said it was countering cells set up by Rwanda to destabilise president Museveni’s government.

Rusoke, who served in Obote’s government, is a close associate of Gen Salim Saleh, a senior defence and security advisor of the president.