By Ricky Mugambe
President Museveni was once a good student of Mao Ze Dung’s protracted warfare also called a people’s war. He effectively made use of it during his National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A) war against then Uganda’s President Obote and succeeded in toppling his government. It’s a strategy of long-term armed revolutionary struggle. The strategy of a protracted people’s war has been used successfully to remove dictatorial regimes in Cuba, Vietnam, and several other countries. There is also a huge graveyard of protracted wars that failed miserably.
Museveni has been waging an undeclared covert war against Rwanda since immediately after the Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army (RPF/A) defeated the genocidal government and its army in July 1994. He has employed all available instruments of power, namely military, economic, diplomatic and propaganda to remove the present Rwandan leadership. He has allied himself with all genocidal and negative forces fighting the Rwanda government. It is now over 25 years, but he remains unrelenting in his determination to remove the current Rwandan leadership. He has invested a lot of resources in this Rwanda Regime-Change project: Money, energy, time and lives.
The question now is: Does Museveni still believe in the success of this protracted war against Rwanda, or has he now become a hostage of a so-called ‘Concorde Effect’ or ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’?
The concept and rationale of a protracted people’s war as espoused by its pioneer Mao Ze Dung is to allow time for mobilization of the people so that they internalize and support the cause, and to degrade a stronger enemy as you build up your own strength and capability.
Museveni’s protracted war against Rwanda has engaged a reverse gear of this concept: Rwandans who used to admire him because they considered him a brother to their own revered President Kagame, now regard him as an enemy and a traitor. They have seen their brothers, sisters, and parents swept up in a manufactured anti-Rwanda hysteria in Uganda, killed, tortured or incarcerated in Uganda for long periods without trial.
Secondly, in his avowed mission to topple the Rwanda government, his key allies have been degraded to the level of annihilation. Thirdly, many among his own senior political associates and military echelons are questioning the rationale of his anti-Rwanda project.
Even some within his inner circle of Rwanda advisors, such as Andrew Mwenda, have recently been challenging the Director of ISO on his continued arrest and incarceration of Rwandan businessmen in ‘unsafe’ houses for extortion. However, Mwenda obviously fears challenging CMI operatives who, on the killings, torture or illegal incarceration of Rwandans, are infinitely worse than ISO. Museveni’s protracted war on Rwanda is, therefore, a project in futility.
For success of any protracted warfare or any war in general, there are well established pre-required factors. First, there has to be a genuine cause with strong commitment and determination to achieve it at any cost, including death. Secondly, and most important, there has to be a strong visionary leadership with the capacity and will to define the path and lead the struggle towards a successful conclusion. Even with a genuine cause, without a selfless visionary leader, the war is bound to end in disaster. The world is awash with several examples of failed protracted wars with just causes.
President Museveni used to emphasize these factors to his NRA soldiers during his 1981-86 liberation war. One of the first lessons in his bush training wing was, “What are we fighting for?” The fighters had to first understand what they were ready to die for. But now 34 years down the road, it seems clear he may not be a super-ager and that senior moments may have crept up on him with age, which is human and natural. In that case, the blame for the mess he finds himself in should go to his military strategists and politico-military advisors.
However, it is not my intent here to apportion blame. It is rather to demonstrate how Museveni’s war against Rwanda is now among those in the graveyard of failed protracted wars. I also analyze why he seems to want to persist in a failed venture on life-support.
Several writers have put forward different causes of the tension and conflict between Uganda and Rwanda. One is that the sole cause is President Museveni’s delusions of grandeur and hegemonic ambitions. Psychologists refer to delusions of grandeur as a false or an unusual belief about one’s greatness. Museveni has had and continues to harbour hegemonic ambitions in the region and the continent at large. He sees President Kagame as a barrier to this goal. This is the cause of his anti-Rwanda hostility and motive for regime-change.
As a cause for war, however protracted, such a motive will definitely end in failure. It is subjective and parochial, is neither revolutionary nor a fit basis for a people’s war and will never attract popular support. Were they thinking rationally, Museveni and his military strategists would understand this very easily.
After over 25 years of such a failed protracted war, they need to re-evaluate what they are fighting for to determine if it in fact serves Ugandan national interest or helps Museveni attain his own parochial hegemonic ambitions.
Before allying with or supporting any armed group, any military strategist worth the title would first look at the two main factors mentioned earlier. That is: The cause for going to war and the leadership spearheading the war effort. In any war-plan, analyzing the enemy includes assessing the quality of commanders, beginning with the overall commander. Let us examine the proxies Museveni has allied himself with in his war on Rwanda.
This is a force comprising mainly those that committed genocide in Rwanda and was defeated by the RPF/A in July 1994. Together with the genocidal government, they fled to the neighboring DRC (then Mobutu’s Zaire). Their ultimate dream is to complete their unfinished extermination of Rwanda’s Tutsi. They have indeed carried out terrorist activities inside the country. Their war goal or cause is genocidal.
Indeed, the FDLR’s top political leaders Ignance Murwanashyaka (now deceased) and his deputy Straton Musoni were arrested in Germany, tried and convicted on charges of leading a genocidal and terrorist outfit. They were charged with 26 counts of crimes against humanity and 39 counts of war crimes.
In November 2003, the first FDLR commander, Gen Rwarakabije, after assessing they had no cause for their fight, abandoned the war, returning home to Rwanda with his entire headquarters staff. He was replaced by Gen Mudacumura, renowned among his subordinate commanders for his thick-headedness, ineptitude and as a non-starter. Gen Mudacumura was killed in September 2019 and was replaced by Gen Ntawunguka Pacific aka Omega, a man who believes it is through prayers that they will topple the Rwanda government. But how to reconcile prayers and genocidal ambitions remains the question.
This is genocidal and terror organization that Museveni is comfortable to ally and work with. By extension, he could find himself charged as an accomplice in their crimes.
This is a faction of the FDLR that broke away under the command of Gen Ndibabaje, aka Musare, killed in 2016. Its senior commanders Col Nzeyimana Wenceslas, aka Kiti, and Col Nzitonda Martin, aka Rashid, have since returned to Rwanda. Gen Musabimana Juvenal, aka Africa Jean Michael who replaced Gen Musare, was killed in November 2019. The RUD Urunana platoon coordinated by Museveni’s CMI that killed 14 civilians in Kinigi, Northern Rwanda, was all wiped out or captured save for three who escaped into Uganda under UPDF cover to tell the story.
Col Kiti was a liaison officer based in Uganda, supported by CMI. On his return to Rwanda, he provided very detailed intelligence on the collaboration between CMI and FDLR/RUD, right from the time they took refuge in DRC.
This was formed by the RPF/A convicted criminals Kayumba Nyamwasa, Patrick Karegeya, Theogene Rudasingwa and Gerard Gahima. These are all individuals who fled Rwanda after committing serious crimes and being charged in courts of law. Their sole motivation for forming an organization to fight the Rwanda government is centred around the fact that they were disgruntled after being obliged to account for their crimes while in office.
The RNC has launched terrorist grenade attacks in Rwanda, killing and maiming many innocent civilians.
Command and leadership capabilities:
None of the RNC leaders had ever fired a single live bullet. The field commander of RNC fighters, Maj Habib Mudathir, had been in the RPA training wing throughout his army service. The only bullets he had ever fired were blanks during training. He was discharged prematurely due to battlefield cowardice.
And yet this is the “best” commander the RNC could find to deploy to the DRC jungles to wage war on Rwanda. It is thus no wonder all his forces, right from its top commanders, were annihilated.
On the political front, the RNC imploded almost immediately after its formation, with Rudasingwa and his brother Gahima forming their “New RNC”. Many of the original members joined the New RNC or other groups similarly supported by CMI, such as the MRCD/FLN.
After the annihilation of RNC forces in the DRC, Kayumba followers, especially RDF deserters, have criticized his leadership, and distanced themselves from him. This has led to the arrest of Ben Rutabana, who was tasked with research and development within the Kayumba faction. He was arrested by Uganda’s CMI, and, according to his family, languishes in its cells.
The arrest of Rutabana by CMI on Kayumba’s orders is yet further evidence of Museveni’s alliance with anti-Rwanda government forces.
The RNC is clearly disintegrating in both its political and military wings, but it surprises observers how Museveni and his politico-military strategists and advisors cannot seem to see that and remain determined to continue to support the group.
It is said that Kayumba Nyamwasa and his RNC have fed Museveni lies regarding their capabilities. But if Museveni and his military strategists have failed to carry out their own background checks on these groups, it can only be because they are willing dupes whose obsession to remove the Rwanda government has blinded them into supporting anyone who declares war on Rwanda, irrespective of their cause or capability.
At one time, Uganda’s CMI gave red-carpet welcome to a mentally challenged retired Rwandan officer after he claimed wanting to fight the Rwanda government. They housed and gave him security guards before realizing after some time they were saddled with a mad man. They eliminated him to rid themselves of the embarrassment.
This seems to have failed to open the eyes of the Museveni military and intelligence strategists who continue to deal with convicts, extortionists, battlefield deserters and other failures in the Rwanda military.
Calyxte Nsabimana, aka Sankara, the highly boastful YouTube commander of yet another group, the MRCD/FLN, which claimed to have captured Western Rwanda, was himself captured and is now on trial in Rwandan courts. The force he sent to Nyungwe forest was decimated. Before court, he revealed he had met Uganda’s CMI chief Brig Kandiho and that Uganda was supplying them with weapons and providing financial and other material support.
It is apparent from the foregoing analysis that none of these groups Museveni has allied himself with have either the cause for the war or the requisite leadership to guide them to their goals. This is coupled with the clear fact that even Museveni himself has no genuine cause to wage war on Rwanda beyond parochial and self-centered ambition rather than for a people’s or broader national interests.
Then why does Museveni persist with a failed mission?
As was posited by the renowned genius Albert Einstein, “It’s only the insane who does the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” Museveni and his military strategists should be at least aware of this simple axiom.
Museveni’s classified expenditure on toppling Kagame Government
Information from Museveni’s inner security circles shows that Museveni’s security organs, media, individual operatives and many paid for work on the Rwanda regime-change project spend close to UG shillings 5 billion a month. By simple calculation, for the last 25 years, Museveni has spent close to two trillion UG shillings (or the equivalent of US$490 million).
This money could have built:
• 60 four hundred-bed fully-equipped hospitals;
• 200 fully-equipped health centers;
• 200 secondary schools;
• 400 primary schools;
• 5 cancer centers with all their requisite equipment; or used to provide
• increased salaries of University professors, doctors and nurses.
Had he accomplished the above over the last 34 years he has been in power, Museveni would not be spending sleepless nights over any opposition threats to that power. The beneficiaries of the above basic services would be Ugandans who would protect him as he relaxed on his Rwakitura/Kisozi farms. Opposition success is premised on Museveni’s failure to provide services to the people, even as he, his family and cronies live conspicuously high.
The question therefore remains: Is this worth the opportunity costs of waging a futile protracted war on Rwanda? The answer is reflected in the threat to his power by several opposition groups, and is a clear NO.
‘Concorde Effect’/’Sunk Cost Fallacy’
It often difficult to abandon a project in which you have invested a lot of resources (money, time, energy and prestige). You are caught in what investment psychologists call the ‘sunk cost fallacy’ or a ‘Concorde effect’. The fallacy involves fixating on how much you have already invested in a project rather than the results or outcome of the investment now under consideration.
Rationally, if the cost of any new expenditure outweighs the projected benefits, then you should abandon the project regardless of how much you have already invested in. It becomes even worse if you have invested human lives.
As seen above, for the last over 25 years, Museveni has spent huge amounts of money in his Rwanda regime-change project; over two trillion Uganda shillings. The project has now taken over 25 years of his attention, and he has invested a lot of energy into it. He has even invested human lives. It is thus possible he faces a dilemma of abandoning a project he has invested in so heavily in resources and immersed himself in for approximately a third of his lifetime. He is in other words, a hostage of the ‘Concorde effect’ or ‘sunk cost fallacy’. In project budgeting, it is drilled into investment officers to ignore sunk cost as there is nothing they can do to recover them; they are sunk precisely because they are gone. You should never throw good money at sunk cost in the forlon hope of recovering them. The focus should instead be on the expected returns from new resource commitments.
According to Rolf Dobelli, “Even though both parties, Britain and France, had long realized that the supersonic aircraft business would never work, they continued to invest enormous sums of money in it—if only to save face. Abandoning the project would have been tantamount to admitting defeat”. The ‘sunk cost fallacy’ is therefore often referred to as the ‘Concorde effect’. It leads to costly, even disastrous errors of judgment in order to avoid acknowledging previous errors of judgement. Therefore, Museveni seems to be a hostage of this same ‘Concorde effect’ or ‘sunk cost fallacy’ .
Another factor that could keep Museveni in this futile project is its lucrative nature. Of the over two trillion shillings spent on the Rwanda regime-change project to-date, close to 99 per cent of it has gone into pockets of individuals within his security apparatus and their bosses. These are the ones who generate intelligence reports to inform Museveni’s policy decisions. They have turned the Rwanda regime-change project into a money-minting business venture. This is so lucrative it will be difficult, if not impossible, to abandon it. Their self-interested false intelligence leads to wrong policy decisions.
There is no doubt that Museveni’s Rwanda regime-change project has failed miserably and irreversibly. I strongly believe even he and his politico-military advisors are aware of this.
If he is simply a hostage of the Concorde Effect/Sunk Cost Fallacy, he needs to go back to the drawing-board, re-evaluate the cost–benefits tradeoffs and be more rational in order to save his country’s resources and human lives. Persisting in a losing and costly enterprise in order to save face is the height of folly.
If he has turned the project into a business venture, again he needs to evaluate its relative benefits to his country and Ugandans as opposed to his own and his security agencies’ parochial interests.
But Museveni could be having a problem finding an exit strategy that preserves face. This is even more so given his delusions of grandeur. If he is having a dilemma settling on an exit strategy, here is my prescription.
The Luanda Memorandum of Understanding between Uganda and Rwanda to cease hostilities.
There have been several mediation efforts aimed at easing tensions between the two countries, but all have ultimately been in vain. Clare Short, Benjamin Mkapa, Meles Zenawi, Uhuru Kenyatta, and that claimed by Museveni’s advisors on Rwanda that culminated in the two First Families hosting each other at their respective private homes, where cattle were gifted. This is usually a strong basis for bonding and durable reconciliation among people with a shared pastoral culture. It should have put to an end, once and for all, the decades-old tension and conflict between the two erstwhile allies. It never did.
I strongly believe the August 2019 Luanda MoU between Uganda and Rwanda is the last-ditch chance to cease hostilities between the two countries. If it too fails, any future effort would simply be futile.
It is the one I recommend President Museveni use as his exit strategy from his failed protracted war on Rwanda.
My humble advice to President Museveni:
• You succeeded in applying the principles and strategy of protracted warfare during your NRM/A liberation war only because you had a genuine public/people’s cause. Your protracted war on Rwanda has no genuine cause other than your parochial hegemonic ambitions derived from your innate folly de grandeur.
• Your allies in that protracted war on Rwanda have no genuine cause either. They are an assortment of genocidaires, terrorists, convicts, criminals and battlefield deserters. Remember the FDLR leaders convicted in Germany. You risk eventually finding yourself being charged as an accomplice.
• You allied with FDLR immediately after their defeat. At the time they were well-trained, armed and numbering over 100,000. Now 25 years down the road, their numbers have dwindled significantly, to between 500-600 according to the UN. The remnants comprise only a small number of very old commanders aged above 60 years and predominantly conscripted civilians with no military experience or skills. If you have failed in the last 25 years, how do you expect to succeed now?
• All your allied groups have been and continue to be annihilated in the Congo forests. President Tshisekedi is determined to eliminate all negative forces based in DRC, a majority of whom are your allies. This was evidenced by your recent refusal to sign the MoU between the Great Lakes Region states to carry out joint operations against negative forces in DRC. This is not surprising, for you are a master of that cattlekeepers’ saying that loosely translates as “you cannot throw a stone where you keep milk gourds.”
• The two trillion shillings so far spent on the Rwanda regime-change project would have raised the socio-economic well-being of Ugandans to such an extent there would be no strong internal political threat to your political power.
• You should refuse to be held hostage of the ‘Concorde effect’ or the ‘sunk cost fallacy’ . They are indeed fallacious. The cost of this anti-Rwanda project has been very high and you have not and will never realize any benefit, whether personal or for your country. A wise man knows when to abandon an unachievable ambition.
• If you are driven by the temptation of the huge personal financial benefits, recall your Constitutional oath and put Uganda and Ugandans first. After all, you now have already amassed more than enough for yourself, your children and great grand children.
• If you have a problem of an exit strategy, take advantage of the excellent opportunity offered by the process under the Luanda MOU you signed with your Rwandan counterpart to normalize relations.
Its only your good relations with Rwanda that can truly and fully serve your personal and national interests now and in the future.