“Everyone must confess”: Inside CMI and RNC torture chambers

Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Militarily Intelligence (CMI) recently succumbed to pressure regarding Fidel Gatsinzi, an innocent Rwandan who it has been holding illegally, and dumped him on the Gatuna border post.

Gatsinzi had been subjected to all sorts of torture and appeared crippled. He had spend weeks in brutal conditions but survived to narrate his escape from the jaws of death.

He recalled how he was picked up by Rwanda National Congress (RNC) operatives in the compounds of Capital Shoppers shopping mall that is frequented by hundreds of people and is located adjacent to a police station and a car washing bay. The operatives who included one Mukombozi took him to Rugema Kayumba, the cordinator of RNC operations in Uganda)l, who was seated in his wife’s car, a grey Toyota Harrier, at a close distance. Gatsinzi was bundled into the car and immediately Rugema confiscated his phone, drove him to Kireka at one of CMI’s torture cells.

Inhumane treatment:

He was questioned by RNC and CMI agents. After hours of questioning they blindfolded him and drove him to Mbuya military barracks. At Mbuya he found others under gross abuse that he immediately sensed what they were about to do to him.

“I was undressed and chained on the stairway. Next to me was some old man who was also handcuffed on the bar by the stairway. He was in poor health to the extent that at first I thought he was dead.”

Gatsinzi came to know exactly what they had done to that man because the same fate befell him that night, “I was tortured the whole night. The pain was unbearable By morning my whole body was swollen. I was in deep pain and in the same condition as the man who was next to me,” Gatsinzi said.

Gatsinzi asked for painkillers. They laughed at him and launched insults at him, “ I never dared again to ask for painkillers or even to think about them.”

The torture intensified. They brought his phone and started to ask him about the people in his contacts list. “They would read a name from the phone and ask me how I know the person. They would shout the name as they kicked and beat me.”

They would do this till he was swollen all over and they couldn’t find a fresh part of the body to beat. They would take a short break and change tactics.

After exhausting physical torture they would turn to psychological torture.

Some of the psychological torture involved preparing him for death. They would drag his beat-up body out of the cell and take him to a secret location in the middle of the night. “One night they held a knife on my throat. Another night they did something similar.”

“Everyone must confess”:

He thought things could not get any worse but they did. This was after he was moved to Mbarara in another CMI torture chamber:

“It’s literally a slaughter house. No one gets out alive. And if they do so, they can never be the same. Inside Mbarara cells, if a prisoner doesn’t drop to the ground fast enough, a guard kicks him or stomps on his back. There’s a high-pitched scream from prisoners who are crying helplessly in pain night and day. They are bleeding, with broken bones.” Gatsinzi recalls the horror.

“Men crawl across the floor of the cellblock moving from one place to another looking for hideouts which are not there; they cry for help while the guards stand over them shouting, kicking them,” narrates Gatsinzi.

They are forced to confess everything even things they know nothing about just so that the beating stops even for a short while. “What they want is a confession that they must get out of you at any cost. Every single person there confessed just to stop the pain.”

This is the barbarism that Gatsinzi somehow managed to survive. But this was an innocent man who was in Kampala to visit his son at school. Even worse, the inhumane conditions of torture are carried out by operatives of a government entity (CMI) working with another without any form of accountability (RNC). To imagine that it can happen to any Rwandan in Uganda makes it really terrifying.