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Nude envoy's arrest sours Uganda-Rwanda ties

A Rwandan diplomat was photographed naked in bed with another man’s wife before being briefly arrested in Uganda, officials said Monday
/ Source: Reuters

A Rwandan diplomat was photographed naked in bed with another man’s wife before being briefly arrested in Uganda, further stoking tensions between the fractious east African neighbors, officials said on Monday.

In an embarrassing incident causing consternation in both Kampala and Kigali, Rwandan First Secretary John Ngarambe was arrested late on Saturday with the wife of a Ugandan businessman at a hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Uganda’s minister of state for international affairs Okello Oryem said police would not charge the envoy with adultery, which is a crime in Uganda, but that Kigali should take action.

“They know what to do when a diplomat behaves in an unbecoming manner,” he said. “This incident was unfortunate.”

Rwandan officials in Kampala made no immediate official comment on Ngarambe’s five-hour detention. But they said privately he should not have been arrested because as a diplomat he enjoys immunity and his status was well known to Ugandan security forces who regularly tail him.

News of the Rwandan’s arrest was splashed on the front pages of both Uganda’s main papers, without the compromising pictures, and there was talk of little else on the streets of Kampala.

The story broke ahead of Tuesday’s treason trial of Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye, which was expected to strain ties even more.

Besigye, who lost elections in February to President Yoweri Museveni, is accused of training rebels in Rwanda.

The Kigali correspondent for Uganda’s independent Sunday Monitor newspaper quoted Rwandan President Paul Kagame as denying for the first time that the rebel People’s Redemption Army (PRA) even existed.

“PRA has been a creation of Uganda itself,” he said. “Its existence and size is something that I know nothing about.”

Rwandan officials could not immediately confirm those comments but promised a statement on the subject shortly.

“This is a very sensitive time, ahead of Besigye’s trial, and this will not help matters,” said one Western diplomat of the diplomatic sex scandal.

Former allies
The Rwandan and Ugandan armies have clashed twice after invading Democratic Republic of Congo together in 1998, and the health of the Kampala-Kigali relationship is a top concern for diplomats working for peace in the Great Lakes region.

Until those clashes in 1999 and 2000 destroyed much of Congo’s diamond city Kisangani, Rwanda’s Kagame and Museveni had been close allies.

They attended the same boarding school in western Uganda, and Kagame became Museveni’s intelligence chief during the bush war that propelled the older man to power to 1986.

In turn, Museveni backed Kagame -- a Rwandan exile -- when he led rebels to end Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

But they fell out over territory in mineral-rich eastern Congo, and despite withdrawing their troops, analysts say both still use proxy militias to compete for influence there.

Both have accused the other of aiding anti-government rebels, and both have expelled diplomats suspected of spying.

Ugandan papers said Ngarambe’s arrest followed three weeks of surveillance, some by agents posing as motorbike taxi riders, and culminated in the raid on the lakeside Windsor Hotel.

After police broke into the room, the pair were photographed and videotaped as they dressed, the papers said, and officers removed the bed sheets and unidentified “romantic accessories” as evidence.