By Patience Kirabo
Just like every other Rwandan national that crosses to (or lives in) Uganda, students have not escaped harassment and all kinds of abuses at the hands of Ugandan security organs. When the Rwandan administration last year in early March issued a travel advisory to its citizens against travel to Uganda, Rwandan students that had been attending school in Uganda (and their parents) made alternative plans.
Now, more than a year and a half after the travel advisory, Rwandan students that used to attend school in Uganda have opted to schooling back home.
“It is really strange how these Ugandan organs, such as CMI (Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence) used to mistreat even Rwandan secondary school children going back to school in Uganda following holidays,” said a border official that talked to us on condition of anonymity.
“Imagine abducting even children that they are Kigali spies, and taking them to unknown locations to subject them to torture. Yet they were going to schools of Uganda, to enrich Uganda,” the official shakes his head. “They were not begging Ugandans for an education; they were paying!” The official shakes his head in anger at the thought of the torture of children.
Several Rwandan students used to travel to Uganda to study every year and were a significant source of revenue for universities and schools there. That no longer is the case following the determined victimization of Rwandan nationals after Kampala’s adoption of a policy of anti-Rwanda hostility by working with groups such as Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC, and others bent on destabilizing the security of Rwanda.
“Whoever advised Uganda did so very poorly,” said an observer. “Their hostility has backfired, in very big ways including the fact that their educational institutions have lost a very big chunk of their income, which was from Rwanda students.”
In just one of the notorious instances of CMI’s victimization of Rwandans, in November last year they arbitrarily arrested four Rwandan university students on the usual allegations of “espionage” that no Ugandan security organ has yet proved against any Rwandan national – in a court, or anywhere else.
Like hundreds that have fallen victim to operatives of Kampala’s security organs, their only crime was that they were Banyarwanda. The students, Andrew Mugisha, Joram Rwamwojo, Emmanuel Namanya, and Living Kagaara, were all at Kampala International University. They were abducted from their hostels, blindfolded, and taken to Makindye Military Barracks. While there they were mistreated, tortured and beaten into false confessions that they were “Rwandan spies”, even though the victims had no idea of what their torturers were talking about.
This was a very important factor in persuading Rwandan students, and Rwandan parents that it was no longer wise to try to pursue studies in Uganda. “Life was normal, until it wasn’t. I ceased to study with a settled mind knowing that anytime someone was going to arrest me on the way to or from school,” Mugisha narrated.
Rwandan parents completely stopped sending their children to study in Uganda. The Rwandan government ensured that all school going students who were studying in Uganda before were successfully enrolled in Rwanda.
At a press conference on the resolutions from the government leadership retreat earlier this year, the Minister of Local Government Anastase Shyaka said: “None of our children has failed to find a school to continue education in Rwanda. They have been all successfully enrolled.”
Schools in Uganda have reported a drastic fall in student numbers as hundreds of Rwandan learners never reported back since the second term of school that started on 27 May, 2019.
According to Nazario Mubangizi, the deputy head teacher of Katuna Primary School, the school had about 105 Rwandan pupils out of 355 pupils, but none of them reported back.
“That is the kind of thing that Uganda probably did not expect when its acts caused the closure of the border,” remarked a commentator.
Ronald Beinomugisha Katungi, the Public Relations Officer of Bishop Barham University College in Kabale says about 120 Rwandan students who studied in Uganda never showed up again after border closure. “We are now counting losses since we don’t expect new students in the forthcoming intake,” he said.
Inadvertently, it is Rwanda’s education system that has benefitted, the bulk of students that used to cross the border having now enrolled in Rwandan schools.
“And they have really lost nothing in quality of tuition either,” said a Rwandan educationist on condition of anonymity.