‘Relations with Rwanda top priority’

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has topped the list of its 2019 scorecard with efforts to normalise relations with neighbour Rwanda, which had placed the region on tension in the past year.
Hon Henry Okello Oryem, the Minister of State for International Relations, said getting the two heads of state to a table for discussions in Luanda was a top diplomatic manouvre that the Ministry takes pride in.
“The Ministry coordinated and participated in 14 peace and security initiatives with the objective of having a stable and peaceful region,” said Okello Oryem.
“These include the ministerial meetings of the joint Ad-hoc Commission set up to implement the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Presidents Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni to normalise relations between both countries,” he explained.
Last week, Kampala released Rwandan nationals who were arrested on suspicion of espionage and were handed over to Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Uganda, Maj Gen Frank Mugambage.
This came from Kampala’s efforts to dispatch Uganda’s Head of Mission to the United Nations, Ambassador Adonia Ayebare, to Kigali to meet President Kagame.
At a news conference, Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon Sam Kutesa, said the guilt or innocence of the suspects notwithstanding, the release of the suspects should be interpreted in the realm of seeking to thaw chilled relations between the two countries.
Okello Oryem, who was meeting the Committee on Foreign Affairs to present the Ministry’s Budget Framework Paper, said Uganda’s peacemaker role in the region would continue to be enhanced.
To achieve this, however, Okello Oryem said the Ministry’s budget needs to be enhanced.
The Ministry’s budget is set to decline to Shs33.3 billion from Shs54 billion in the current Financial Year.
On distraught Ugandans in foreign countries, especially those on desperate journeys in search of work, Okello Oryem said the Ministry can only offer consular services restricted within the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
This means that the Ministry’s work will not extend beyond offering consular support unless funds are provided to offer extra services to Ugandans trapped in capitals overseas.
Committee Member, Lt Gen Pecos Kutesa (UPDF) said although there is commendable work being done by the Ministry, there should be efforts at enhancing commercial and cultural diplomacy for Uganda’s transformation.