Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is widely seen as someone that has betrayed one of his close friends, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in time of need.
The two in August this year agreed to always “walk together” in times of happiness and sadness.
But so far Gen Museveni has not taken tangible steps to save his buddy as the Ethiopian government collapses apart from appointing former 2016 presidential candidate and former Prime Minister John Patrick Mr Amama Mbabazi as a Special Envoy to South Sudan and Ethiopia-both of which are facing political crises.
It is still unclear how Rt Hon Amama Mbabazi will help Abiy Ahmed maintain grip on power in the face of aggressive rebellion by Tigray.
Gen Museveni has in the past saved Salva Kiir’s government in South Sudan and that of late Pierre Nkurunziza in Burundi from collapsing without waiting for international interventions.
However, to understand that President Yoweri Museveni is not prepared to save Abiy Ahmed’s government from collapsing one has to analyze recent regular tweets by the Ugandan leader’s son.
First Son Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba who doubles as the Senior Presidential Adviser for Special Operations and Commander of the Land Forces has made it clear that “they” stand with Egypt against Ethiopia after the two north African countries disagreed on the building of a mega power dam by Ethiopia, which could reduce the flow of the Nile water to Egypt.
The conflict between Ethiopia and Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, whose construction started in April 2011, weeks after the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, threatened to worsen the conflicts in the north and Horn of Africa.
Construction of the dam was completed in July 2020, and the filling of its reservoir started soon after amid heavy rains but before an agreement between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan was signed.
Muhoozi has also made it clear that in the ongoing civil war in Ethiopia “they” stand with Tigray rebels against government forces.
“I don’t know why my brothers in Ethiopia are fighting me? It makes me sad. You are fighting my tribe in Tigray. Tigrayans are part of us. God is the one who protects us,” Muhoozi tweeted, according to Nyamilepedia, a South Sudan online publication.
Gen Muhoozi also retweeted a post by Kampala Post, a Ugandan online publication, that Tigray had captured the Ethiopian city of Dessie.
Fighters from Tigray, led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), took the cities of Dessie and Kombolcha in the Amhara region, which neighbours Tigray, and are about 400km (250 miles) from the capital, Addis Ababa.
The battle for Dessie was believed to have been one of the most ferocious in the war as the city is seen as the gateway to Addis Ababa, in the south, and the border with Djibouti, in the east.
The Ethiopian government has been appealing for help from African brothers to no avail. Ethiopian Prime Minister even visited President Museveni but the Ugandan leader has not shown substantial intervention in the conflict.
Instead, it is Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister that has attempted to cover up. Hon Okello Oryem said that the Ugandan leader called an East African bloc leaders’ meeting on Nov. 16 to discuss the conflict in Ethiopia.
“President Museveni is in touch with the Prime Minister Abiy on the ongoing situation in Ethiopia and has expressed concern at the refusal by the Tigray group to engage in negotiations and reach a ceasefire. So we’re concerned,” Okello Oryem, Uganda’s state minister for foreign affairs told Reuters.
Prime Minister of Abiy Ahmed Ali was is in Uganda on August 29, 2021 and met President Museveni to strengthen cooperation in bilateral, regional and international issues of common interest.
Mr Museveni tweeted; “The meeting with H.E @AbiyAhmedAli ended fruitfully. We agreed to ‘walk together’ on matters regarding strengthening cooperation in bilateral, regional, and international issues of common interest.”
Ethiopia and Uganda have been cooperating in various peace processes in the region. Museveni attended Abiy Ahmed’s swearing in ceremony on October 4, 2021 after Abiy’s ruling party Prosperity Party’s won a landslide victory in national elections held in June.
In 2018, President Museveni honoured the Ethiopian premier with the Most Excellent Order of the Pearl of Africa medal, Uganda’s highest accolade given to a head of state at a special National Heroes Day. The award is in recognition of Abiy’s immense contribution to the independence struggle of Africa.
But Muhoozi has never minced words. And as of today the First Son wields a lot of influence on Uganda’s foreign policy issues even though he is still a serving soldier. He has particularly sided with Egypt against Ethiopia.
Muhoozi is also favoured by widespread media campaign to replace his father in 2026 when Gen Museveni’s current term of office ends.
It is believed that Muhoozi’s closeness to the Egyptians could have prevented Museveni from militarily intervening in Ethiopia at the hour of need.
On September 19, 2021, Muhoozi tweeted; “It was an honor to meet my boss 10 years ago. General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Today he is the President of Egypt! He is a great man. Uganda shall continue working with Egypt to ensure stability in the Nile Basin.”
The first son added on the same day; “My late grandfather Mzee Amos used to tell us that the first Banyankore came from Egypt. When I was there for a course (for 6 months) I never had a problem with any Egyptian. If anybody thinks of fighting Egypt, he should know he will be fighting Uganda as well.”
On October 16, 2021, Gen Muhoozi met Mohamed El-Hamzawi, a former Egyptian diplomat in Uganda and tweeted, “It was a real pleasure to meet my brother. He came with the new Egyptian Defence Attaché to Kampala and his son Omer. We talked about the unbreakable brotherhood between Uganda and Egypt. Greetings to our brethren in Egypt”.
Egypt and Uganda have a strong historical bond that stretches way back to colonial times. Since President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi took power in 2014, Egyptian-Ugandan relations have witnessed a remarkable development, in light of Egypt’s interest to promote its relations with other African countries, especially the Nile Basin countries, to achieve common interests.
In April this year, Egypt concluded a military intelligence cooperation agreement with Uganda. Under the agreement, Egypt and Uganda will exchange intelligence information on a regular basis.
Egypt has provided Uganda with training programs in combating terrorism at the Egyptian military faculties to promote security and defence cooperation between the two countries as well as other training programs in water management, health, agriculture and media.
In May 2014, Egypt trained 10 Ugandan technicians on designing, building and maintaining rainwater harvesting dams as part of a $2-million grant offered by Egypt to implement a number of rainwater harvesting dams in Uganda.
In May 2018, Ugandan President Museveni visited Cairo and met with his Egyptian counterpart. A number of agreements and memorandums of understanding were signed between the two countries.
These included a memorandum between Egypt’s Electricity and Renewable Energy Ministry and its Ugandan counterpart to establish a four-megawatt solar power plant in Uganda, in addition to a memorandum for the establishment and management of industrial zones between the Egyptian Industrial Development Authority and the Uganda Investment Authority, and another one for cooperation in agricultural fields.
The Egyptian influence in Uganda is not limited to the military aspect. It recently expanded in the economic and investment levels, as Egypt contributes to raising the efficiency of the infrastructure of Uganda through several projects undertaken by Egypt’s Arab Contractors Company.
Without military support from Kenya and Uganda it is unlikely that the Ethiopian government can survive the incursion by the Tigray rebels. Sudan is at loggerheads with Abiy’s government because of interfering with the flow of the Blue Nile.
This is why Abiy Ahmed’s government has announced a nationwide state of emergency and called on citizens to take up arms to defend the capital.
Tigray’s rebel forces currently have the upper hand in the war that erupted a year ago in northern Ethiopia.
A senior diplomatic source in Ethiopia told CNN on Wednesday that fighters from the Tigray Defense Force (TDF) and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) were on the outskirts of the capital. The OLA is an outlawed armed group from Oromia, the country’s most populous region.
The source added that the rebels had the firepower to be inside the city within hours, if they chose to be, but would prefer to wait for an agreement to be put in place.
The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa has authorized the voluntary departure of some staff and family members as rebel forces in northern Ethiopia make advances towards the capital.
Twelve months on, the fighting has left thousands dead, displaced more than two million people from their homes, fueled famine and given rise to a wave of atrocities.
Now, with combined rebel forces edging closer to Addis Ababa, fears are growing that the conflict could spiral into all-out war.
Africans around the world have signed an open letter enjoining the African Union to mediate in the war in Ethiopia. Analysts agree on the need for intervention to end the bloodshed and prevent a major refugee crisis.
Dozens of African scholars and activists around the world took the unusual step of publishing an open letter calling for a negotiated peace.
“Ethiopia is on the precipice,” the letter reads, after condemning “the fact that the conflict is affecting ever-increasing numbers of civilians,” in a war increasingly characterized by human rights violations.
Mamadou Diouf, cosignatory of the letter and professor of African Studies at the Columbia University in the US, told DW that “the inability to prevent this conflict is a failure of Africa as a whole.”
“The conflict in Tigray is deeply concerning to many African countries,” Hassan Khannenje pointed out.
The director of the Kenya-based HORN International Institute for Strategic Studies went on to enumerate several reasons, including the fact that the headquarters of the African Union (AU) is in Addis Ababa, and that Ethiopia is the second-largest country in Africa in terms of population.
Peace and mediation may not have been uppermost in Abiy’s mind, analyst Khannenje believes: “He is leaning heavily also on the region and other traditional allies to try and shore up support politically, but also, critically, to try and have access to armaments.”
Abiy has also turned to Turkey for support. President Recep Erdogan views Ethiopia as the “keystone to expanding its economic footprint in the greater East Africa region as far south as Kenya and Uganda,” researcher Michael Tanchum, of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy and a nonresident fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, told DW.
Ankara is not only thinking about access to markets and resources. “By having a strong security relationship with both Somalia and Ethiopia, Turkey seeks to offset the strategic presence of Egypt and the UAE [United Arab Emirates] in the Horn of Africa,” Tanchum said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said Washington was alarmed over reports that Tigrayan forces had taken over the two towns, and urged all parties to begin ceasefire negotiations.
US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, will travel to Ethiopia on Thursday and Friday, a State Department spokesperson confirmed Wednesday, saying: “The United States is increasingly troubled by the expansion of combat operations and intercommunal violence in Ethiopia and is closely monitoring the situation.”
Senior Biden administration officials have warned that Ethiopia will lose access to a lucrative US trade program due to human rights violations unless it takes significant steps toward ending the ongoing conflict and alleviating the humanitarian crisis by the start of 2022.
The US administration is also preparing to issue sanctions against parties to the conflict, under an executive order signed by President Joe Biden in September, according to the officials.