Despite a steady stream of denials from Kigali and Kampala, ties between Rwanda and Uganda appear to be deteriorating rapidly. The latest ebb in this historically volatile relationship stems from the Ugandan government’s pushback on what it perceives as Rwandan meddling in its domestic affairs. Though Ugandan officials have not gone public with any formal allegations, their dissatisfaction can be read in a recent string of increasingly high-profile incidents.
Last year, the Ugandan government mounted a crackdown on suspected Rwandan spies operating in Uganda, including the arrest of a handful of Ugandan police officers accused of being part of a so-called sleeper cell carrying out kidnappings and surveillance on behalf of the Rwandan government. And in March, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni sacked his long-time police chief and security minister, both of whom had close ties to Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Although the situation doesn’t appear to be heading toward outright conflict in East Africa, this growing animosity could stall attempts to increase cooperation and integration in the region. If it escalates any further, it could also worsen already tense situations in neighboring countries. While war between Rwanda and Uganda is almost unimaginable, proxy battles have sprung from their private disagreements before.