By Patience Kirabo
Twelve Rwandan nationals that have been in illegal incarceration in Uganda today were dumped at the Kagitumba One-Stop Border Post following release from different detention facilities in the neighboring country.
Ernest Sekamana, Jonas Ndikumana, Safari Damieri, Bolingo Mvuyekure, Jean D’Amour Manirere, Joseph Dushime, Jean Damascene Nzabikika, Chris Manzi, Bernard Mugabo, James Makombe, Sadiki Batsinzi, and Jean De Dieu Ntezemungu are the latest group to be released from Uganda’s illegal detention after they were arbitrarily arrested on different occasions. Their only crime: being Banyarwanda.
Among these, seven were allegedly accused of “espionage”, “illegal entry”, and “unlawful possession of Ugandan identification”. However, none of the victims were accorded a single trial in court or given access to legal representation. They were all held incommunicado and tortured for months. “We were given daily beatings with sticks and kicks!” says 48-year old Bernard Mugabo who was arbitrarily lifted from his home in Kasese District and dumped into a truck, all the way to the dreaded Makenke Barracks in Mbarara.
According to testimonies from all the victims, they were abducted or arbitrarily arrested between the dates of March 17 and May 17 this year, and were taken to different places of detention – including the much-feared torture dungeons of Ugandan Military Intelligence (CMI) headquarters at Mbuya Military Barracks, Kireka Police Station (also a CMI facility), Kasonga Police Station, in addition to Makenke.
During detention, they say, brutal agents subjected them to physical abuse, and enhanced torture techniques including electrocution, severe beatings, and what is known as waterboarding, i.e. simulated drowning that leaves the victim terrified that he is actually about to drown.
This year on June 8th and 9th respectively, Uganda released 132 Rwandans – none of whom had ever been charged in court – as part of what Kampala called “a gesture of goodwill to mend relations between the two countries.” But, as testimony from the latest 12 victims to be dumped indicates, Uganda has continued to harass and persecute Rwandans, extra-legally and with no recourse to compensation.
Bernard Mugabo, the former resident of Kasese District, was kidnapped by two un-uniformed men brandishing pistols. That is when they brutally forced him into their vehicle, dumped a dark cloth over his head, and drove him all the way to Makenke Barracks for interrogation.
“They accused me of being a Rwandan spy, but what do I know about spying!” remarked the weary sounding Mugabo who nevertheless is grateful that his ordeal is over.
“They tried to force me into confessing that I am spying on Uganda, but I told them that I had no slightest idea of what they were accusing me of!” he added.
Accusations of “espionage” are a favorite tactic that Ugandan intelligence agencies use as justification to harass Rwandan nationals, something that has been going on for close to four years now. “What has since become an indisputable fact is that whether it is CMI, ISO or others accusing Rwandan nationals of ‘spying’ or ‘illegal weapons possession’ and similar charges, they will never show any proof or mount any case,” said Eron Kiiza, a Kampala-based attorney of several illegally incarcerated Rwandans.
Even after Uganda and Rwanda signed a memorandum of agreement with the agreement that such harassment of Rwandan nationals was to end however, all Uganda does is release some people once in a while, but the likes of CMI keep inflicting injustices against more Rwandans.
“Mbuya is like a slaughter house for Rwandan nationals. I have to live with their loud screams of pain in my sleep; it is total horror!” Mugabo – who was later transferred from Makenke to Mbuya – narrates with a shiver of remembered pain.