Meanwhile, Kandiho’s brother has withdrawn his testimony against illegally incarcerated Rwandans
By Jackson Mutabazi
A Rwandan that has been illegally incarcerated for a year in Uganda – following accusations of illegal weapons possession against him by the brother of CMI chief Brig. Gen. Abel Kandiho – almost died in Kampala’s Luzira Prison last week after someone put ground bottle fragments in his food.
Betty Mutamba, the wife of Augustin Rutayisire – a businessman that worked both in Rwanda and Uganda – told Virunga Post: “I learnt of Augustin’s near death from his brother who visited him today at Luzira and telephoned me with the news afterwards. That was yesterday, 10 May 2019.
“His brother told me that luckily they took him to hospital before it was too late, and they washed him in the stomach,” Betty told this website, adding, “they also gave him medication, but the news is that he is very unwell!”
Rutayisire’s troubles – together with Emmanuel Rwamucyo a friend of his – started last year.
Betty says that the trouble started when Augustin boarded a 3 am bus to Uganda, on a business trip as he often did.
It turns out that when Rutayisire reached Mbarara, he decided to link up with his good friend Rwamucyo, a fellow Rwandan national, who has businesses in Mbarara and Isingiro. According to Rwamucyo’s relatives, he had asked Rutayisire to accompany him to a bank branch in Mbarara where he intended to deposit money.
It was at the bank that, according to witnesses, a feared GISO (Government Internal Security Officer) of the Ruborogota Isingiro area, Mukama Moses Kandiho – who happens to be the brother of Brig. Gen Abel Kandiho – accosted the two Rwandans. The man immediately accused them of “involvement in a robbery plot” and told them they were under arrest.
The next thing they knew, Mukama Kandiho was talking on his phone. In a few moments, “a big vehicle arrived.” It was the vehicle of the UPDF Second Division Counter-intelligence Officer Maj. Mushambo. The officer had come with some soldiers who went about, making a show of searching Rwamucyo’s car.
In a few moments they were back, with a gun saying they had found it in Rwamucyo’s car. Kandiho’s brother had at first accused them of “involvement in a robbery plot”. In a short while the statement would change to “illegal possession of firearms and ammunition”.
Back in Kigali, Betty, unaware what was going on, called her husband, “as people normally do”, to find out if her husband had arrived safely. But when she called, Betty says, he only told her, “wait a bit I will call; I am with people!” She says that there was “something in his voice that alarmed me a bit.”
She says she waited for him to call, but he did not. She says she called again around midnight. This time he answered. She asked him whether he had arrived well. He said he had. But Betty thought there was something very strange going on.
“I could hear that he was talking from a very quiet place, which is very unusual with Kampala. He seemed to be walking because I could hear footsteps. Betty says she asked her husband: “where are you!”
He only said, “I am going to where I will spend the night!” That really alarmed her because that’s not the way her husband, “a talkative, cheerful person”, talks. From that moment he did not answer the phone again, she told this website.
“I would call until the phone stopped ringing. It was like that; the month ended; weeks came and went and he never answered. He had two lines – a Rwandan and Ugandan one – and he answered none of them.”
Augustine Rutayisire was incommunicado to his wife, and to all his relatives. Their three children, the oldest of whom looks around 11, have also been asking, “Mummy, where is Daddy?” Betty says she became like a traumatized person, not knowing what was going on.
By the third week her husband’s Rwandan line went dead. But the Ugandan one remained on. By the fourth week even that was off air. Around then Betty decided to go to the Ugandan capital. Family members were pleading with her not to go.
“If you go and you too suffer the same fate, it will be terrible! Also think of what will happen to the children!”
But she was resolute; she had to go. She boarded a bus and, luckily she arrived safely and went to the house of an aunt of Augustin’s. “We planned to go to police stations first,” she says. Another plan was to go to MTN, to see if the company could trace for them where his Ugandan number went dead from.
“We tried all places,” she says, “but with no luck.” They also went to the business premises at Kitintale where her husband, a wine dealer, usually did business. No one knew anything, although they said they had heard Augustin had disappeared.
After a week in Uganda, she came back to Rwanda in despair. She was bereft of ideas. But she couldn’t settle. After a time she went back to Kampala to try some more for any leads about her husband’s whereabouts.
It was around that time, she says, that someone mysteriously telephoned her. “He told me his name and said: ‘I know about your husband, he is imprisoned at Makindye Barracks in Kampala; he is imprisoned with my brother!’” This person was a brother of Rwamucyo.
They had a lengthy phone talk and Betty began to learn more about what had happened. She learnt Augustin was arrested in Mbarara, with his friend. “That must have been where I first talked to him – the night after he left Kigali – and he seemed in such a quiet place!”
She also learnt that when the UPDF men arrested the two, they first took them to Makenke Barracks in Mbarara where “they were badly beaten and tortured!” From Mbarara they would be transferred to CMI detention in Mbuya Barracks, and from there to Luzira.
Betty says that after the call from Rwamucyo’s brother she quickly boarded a bus to Uganda. “We went straight to Makindye, but the authorities completely refused to let us see our people,” she narrates. “We went to the Rwandan Embassy in Kampala and they wrote a letter that they gave us, which we took to the (Ugandan) Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
There, officials too wrote them a letter and sent them on to the Ministry of Defense. At Defense they in turn sent them to CMI. Betty says that at CMI there was one soldier who told them, “Your husband is soon going to court; you can go there and wait for them!”
The court the man was talking about is the Military Court Martial. That by itself is a serious abuse of the rights of Rutayisire and Rwamucyo, according to the Ugandan constitution. The law is the same in most places of the world.
“You cannot try civilians in military court, so this case already is null and void, and our clients should be freed immediately!” Lawyers for the two men said in March this year. Betty says the first time she saw her husband after his detention was in September last year.
She says Augustin and his friend were in such a bad condition that she burst into tears. When she talked to him and asked him why they had arrested him, he said the first thing they told him was that “they knew he had come to collect a large sum of dollars belonging to a fellow Rwandan businessman”!
The UPDF men, together with Kandiho’s brother Mukama ordered the Rwandan nationals to go show them the money!
In the meantime Mushambo and Kandiho had already relieved Rwamucyo of his money – equivalent to 40 million Rwandan francs – which he had brought to deposit on his account.
Analysts comment that Uganda’s highly criminalized security services have – ever since Museveni began his unprovoked policy of hostility to Rwanda and Rwandan nationals – exploited the situation to target totally innocent Rwandans. They make many fake charges, espionage! Illegal entry!, against Rwandans while robbing them of their money or other property.
Rutayisire told his wife that the UPDF men badly beat them in Mbarara, telling them, “show us the money you have hidden!” But, other than Rwamucyo’s money, they had no other, they pleaded to their torturers.
It was then that the charges of illegal weapons possessions were brought against them, using the guns Mushambo’s men had planted in Rwamucyo’s car.
But then something completely unexpected happened at the last Court Martial session, which was on 16 April (last month). Mukama Moses Kandiho was in the court, and said that his testimony against the two men was incorrect!
“He said this thing in court, in full hearing of everyone!” said Betty. “Kandiho said clearly and loudly that the charges he had brought against Augustin and Rwamucyo were not true, and that he was withdrawing original statements!”
Betty is hopeful that her husband will be free soon. Their next appearance in court (martial) is scheduled for 21 this month.