By Patience Muvunyi
After years of denying it has Rwandans illegally detained in non-gazetted facilities across the country, Uganda had decided to release some of them.
A total of 32 were released in the middle of the night on 12 September 2019.
Ugandan authorities have long ignored notes verbale from the Rwandan high commission in that country. On the few occasions they did respond, they claimed the accusations were baseless and that there were no Rwanda detainees in CMI’s ungazzetted cells.
In a 17 May 2019 press conference Uganda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sam Kutesa, denied that Uganda was holding Rwandans, saying that those arrested had “either been charged in courts of law or deported back to Rwanda.” Clearly the 32 Rwandan who were released last week had not been charged. Neither are the hundreds who remain illegally intercalated in CMI’s illegal cells.
Interestingly, it is exactly the same CMI that handed the 32 victims to immigration authorities to process the deportation. If in fact the detainees had not been in CMI facilities, then how did the military intelligence outfit get hold of the victims?
Most importantly, the decision to dump them at the border in the wee hours raises questions about how much Uganda is committed to the Luanda MoU that requires the release of all illegally detained Rwandans in that country. For one thing, only a fraction of detainees was released, meaning the vast majority remain in the illegal CMI custody where they have been undergoing systematic torture.
The release of a few from the vast number of detainees is likely window-dressing meant to feign goodwill just before a visit by a delegation led by Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa set to arrive in Kigali on Monday September 16.
If, in fact, the goal was to implement the Angola MoU then the expectation was that all Rwandan victims in cells across Uganda should have been released well before the visit.
But even as they now appear to admit that they in fact do have Rwandans in illegal custody, there are reasons to delay their release: some a brutally tortured and cannot be exposed to the public.
Those who are lucky enough to have been released last weak have revealed that they left behind compatriots who were in critical condition due to torture. This is partly the reason the authorities decided to release the victims at night to limit media coverage and a PR nightmare regarding torture.
An example is Augustin Rutayisire, who was arrested in May 2018 and is languishing in Luzira Prison having suffered torture, repeated beatings, being starved, and being forced to sleep on a cold floor. Tens of others are languishing in similar conditions in cells across Uganda.
It appears that CMI will be forced to treat those it intends to release and to “disappear” those whose torture signs are likely to bring negative media attention.
It was reported early this week that Augustin Rutayisire, who was picked up in May 2018, is languishing in critical condition as a result of torture. Rutayisire sleeps on a cold floor and has sustained injuries in the chest, waist, and back; sources reveal that he is coughing blood.
Last month, 60 year old Nunu Johnson who was arrested in Mbarara died after CMI not only tortured him but also denied him access to his cancer medication. Others like Fideli Gatsinzi and Donne Kayibanda that have been deported carry permanent injuries.
Sources have also revealed that in the run-up to the Angola MoU there were efforts by CMI to bribe the Rwandan prisoners: officials visited all the cites of their detention persuading the prisoners to either declare themselves refugees or join the RNC rather than face the prospects of having to hand them over to Rwanda. Indeed, once they refused they faced more harassment, sources add.
Kayumba admits working with Museveni
The release of Rwandan detainees from Ugandan captivity comes less than a week after Kayumba Nyamwasa admitted in an interview on the RNC’s Radio Itahuka that in fact he speaks to President Museveni and that there’s nothing out of the ordinary about that. Kayumba also revealed that he had been communicating with Museveni during his time as a senior officer in the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA), now the Rwanda Defense Force (RDF). Kayumba says his closeness with Museveni makes such communication not unusual. However, anyone with some understanding of diplomacy and military convention knows that there’s nothing normal about a head of state of one country being in constant communication with a senior military officer of another, let alone one in the position of chief of staff.
Astonishingly, Kayumba similarly admits in the same interview that the RNC’s head of diplomacy, Charlotte Mukankusi, also visits Uganda regularly and meets with officials there. In fact, Museveni himself admitted to meetings with Ms. Mukankusi, who he also cleared to have a Ugandan passport.
Kayumba and the RNC no longer feel a need to deny they are receiving support from Uganda, particularly from President Museveni.
Kayumba’s change of tactics from denying working with Museveni to now openly admitting to such an alliance suggests that evidence that came to light leading to the Luanda MoU must have been overwhelming and could no longer be denied.
Similarly, after years denying having Rwandans languishing in CMI cells, the authorities in Uganda are finally trying to come clean with the batched release of some of their victims.
The Uganda-Rwanda crisis is in uncharted territory if now both Museveni and his terrorist RNC allies are openly admitting to the accusations Rwanda has been making for years only to meet denials and stonewalling even in the face of irrefutable evidence.