When you are an ordinary person not privy to truthful information from the upper echelons of political power, you can at times be dazed by what goes on between Uganda and Rwanda. Look! It is only the other day when the signing of a Treaty on Extradition was the epitome of the sixth session of the two countries' Joint Permanent Commission. But now we hear the two are for a second time in just over seven months about to reject each other's diplomats on bizarre grounds.
Everything about this round of expulsions, like the one which took place last November, is simply difficult to understand.
I have been trying in vain to fathom why Uganda should consider expelling someone already transferred and is just awaiting transportation. Has there been direct involvement in the politics of the host country? Because that is what should be categorized as 'activities incompatible with his diplomatic status.'
I am going to plead the case with Uganda mainly because Rwanda again seems to want to react primarily out of retaliation, rather than a pre-planned motive aimed at countering a real threat. To begin with, the phrase 'information is power' can only be expected to grow in relevance as the world becomes more dynamic and competitive day by day. That makes information a hot commodity and an irreplaceable component in development mechanisms.
It so follows that operatives will be deployed in strategic and resourceful spots to gather vital information necessary for decision and policy makers back home.
Spying a must
Yet not all the useful information, vital for advancement, in some cases even for survival, is available on the open market. And because this is true, any establishment worth its name cannot do without political, military and industrial espionage.
We even can agree with the way someone in a local daily put it that Rwanda was buying intelligence like it was beans and that still would not make the expulsion sensible enough.
In civilised societies, intelligence gathering by foreign diplomatic mission staff is seen as the norm rather than being the exception. It is acceptable behaviour elsewhere to the extent that if say a First Secretary at the DR Congo mission in France didn't do any spying, the Paris officials would quietly wonder what the person came to do in the first place.
If the powers that be think that certain information is highly confidential or top secret, the focus is on safeguard and not on harassing those hunting for it.
For Uganda to expel a Rwanda Embassy staff for alleged spying is to apply crude methods of defending national sovereignty. It could be seen by others as anger vented out onto someone doing something that is agreeable. A woman seated on the roadside in an invitingly awkward position should simply do the only logical thing - close the gap or at least narrow it, lest male passers by are tempted to bend low for a peep.
Sometimes you wonder whether other countries do not find it laughable because Rwanda cannot be the most potential intelligence gatherer here, not even on the Great Lakes region scale.
Going after Rwanda is a perfect reflection of the way corruption is fought in some countries, Uganda inclusive, where big time culprits are not bothered, as the small fish are tormented.
Matters could further be complicated by the fact that Uganda and Rwanda share certain crucial allies. If these allies, equipped with sophisticated technology, are inevitably left to do their thing in Uganda unhindered, it is possible they could share their findings with their Rwandan friends. That renders the chasing, both around and out, of the Rwanda spies ineffective.
In spite of the authorities here knowing the little impact of the dismissal act on Rwanda's ability to know the goings on in Uganda, an expulsion still took place.
The anti-espionage weapon need not be double barreled, targeting both the information giver and its taker. Definitely sending away one diplomat out of many, all paid by their countries to do exactly the same thing, should not feature among the wise approaches.
Ignatius Kabagambe Kampala
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