By Our Reporters
Recently, Rwanda Ambassador Frank Mugambagye secured a meeting with the President and in that encounter the two leaders discussed a range of things. One of the matters on which Mugambagye raised Kigali’s concerns to the President about concerned what President Paul Kagame considered the role played by Regional Cooperation Minister Philemon Mateke in complicating diplomatic relations between Uganda and Rwanda. As Museveni reluctantly listened, Mugambagye explained why his boss in Kigali would like to see action taken against the most influential man in Kisoro. He explained to the Ugandan veteran leader that Mateke is naturally hostile to President Kagame because he was personally a very close friend of President Habyarimana. Indeed, when the Okellos toppled Obote in July 1985, Mateke who was an influential minister in the UPC administration fled to Rwanda where Habyarimana willingly received him. He took refugee there for some months until the Okellos pleaded with him to return insisting that he wouldn’t face any reprisals since he hadn’t been a bad mannered minister. The Okellos ensured that minister Murenga, who was baying for Mateke’s blood, was prevailed upon. Basing on all this history, Mugambagye insisted that Museveni must crack the whip on Mateke (a Hutu) because President Kagame considers him a diehard supporter of Hutu-dominated FDLR rebels based in Congo. Reliable State House sources say that during the same meeting Mugambagye specifically alleged that Mateke was involved in mobilizing Hutus based in Uganda especially in refugee settlements to avail themselves for training in the DRC as part of the preparations for the military confrontation the FDLR rebels are organizing.
After impatiently listening to Mugambagye whose submissions he considered disgusting, the Ugandan big man turned and contemptuously asked the Rwandan diplomat thus: “Amb Mugambagye do you really believe Mzee Mateke frail as he is can do all the things you have accused him of?” He cynically told the Ambassador that he had taken note of his concerns and that he would speak to Mateke about the same. Indeed, as promised Museveni subsequently summoned Mateke and shared with him Rwanda’s concerns and told him not to worry “because I of course do not believe what those Rwandans are saying about you.” Mateke used the occasion to inform Museveni how he has been having premonition that the angry Rwandans must be planning some mischief against him. He went as far as reporting to the President that he developed fears about frequently visiting Kisoro (as often as he used to) after realizing his movements while upcountry were being trailed by strange people. Coincidentally, Museveni told him his own intelligence had previously picked and reported to him the same information. “So how have you gone about your security?” Museveni reportedly asked on seeing the extent to which the old man was nervous. Mateke told him “I’m only relying on God.” He begged Museveni to allow him to keep in the background even when the ongoing stand-off between Kigali and Kampala falls under his immediate docket. Museveni told Mateke that he now realizes his life was in danger to the extent that the usual police guards were no longer capable of securing him against imminent danger to his life. Subsequently a team from SFC was dispatched to travel to Mateke’s Lungujja home to assess the old man’s level of vulnerability. Basing on the findings, Museveni has since deployed a good number of SFC personnel to provide Mateke with sufficient VIP protection. And as we talk, Mateke continues to be guarded by the SFCs both at home and office. Even when he is to travel to Kisoro he has to first contact the President for his assessment of the situation and relevant advice.