By Melodie Mukansonera
In an unprecedented shift, Uganda’s Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa, has admitted that his country is holding hundreds of Rwandans, and that it will be releasing a few of them in a few weeks to come. Kutesa, made the revelation while addressing the 4th Ad Hoc Commission on the implementation of the Luanda Memorandum of Understanding held via virtual conferencing. Uganda had previously vehemently denied that Uganda was holding any Rwandan national.
Adding to his statement, Kutesa then said that Uganda is set to release 130 Rwandans that are currently held in Ugandan prisons, adding that, “three hundred and ten more Rwandans are still being held by Ugandan authorities”.
Kutesa’s comments came after his Rwandan counterpart, Vincent Biruta pointed out: “the harassment and persecution of Rwandan nationals in Uganda continues to grow, and the Government of Uganda seems to keep denying its role in these regrettable acts.”
In his opening remarks during the meeting, Biruta pointed out that there has been some progress in normalizing relations but reminded the Ugandan delegation that Kampala has not complied with much of what had been agreed on in the Luanda MoU, and in the Quadripartite Heads of State decisions.
“There are still activities of terrorist groups operating in Uganda whose primary mission is to destabilize Rwanda. For instance, outfits of that Self-Worth Initiative still operate RNC cells in Uganda. This goes against the Government of Uganda’s previous commitment of disbanding the activities of this criminal organization,” Biruta said in his opening remarks.
SWI initiative has in the past been exposed as a false NGO set up by one Prossy Bonabaana together with Sulah Nuwamanya – both agents of Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC in Uganda.
“There is a trend of on-going mobilization activities in different parts of Uganda to support RNC and other different negative forces that continue to receive the support from Uganda’s Security Organs,” Minister Biruta added.
One of the new developments, revealed from the meeting was that Uganda has de-registered SWI as an “NGO” – although, Rwanda says, its members have continued operating covertly.
Meanwhile, the Ugandan delegation has been further challenged on the continued arrests, torture and persecution of Rwandans, which Kigali shows, have persisted. One of the most recent incidents happened on last month on 18th, when two Rwandan women were dumped at the border after being severely beaten by Ugandan security operatives while on their way back home. The women had committed no crime at all. And even if one committed a crime, “how is it lawful to beat and brutalize them?” Rwandan authorities asked when they received them. One of Rwanda’s complaints is that though both parties further committed to verify the number of detained nationals and report through a note verbale in three weeks time, Kigali complied but Kampala did not.
“Rwanda fully played its part and communicated through diplomatic channels a list of Ugandans legally detained in Rwanda,” said the Rwandan statement. “Unfortunately up to now we are yet to receive the same communication on Rwandans legally, or illegally detained in Uganda.”
In an incident last year, terrorists of RUD-Urunana attacked in Kinigi District, killed 14 innocent people and wounded others before Rwandan security forces put them out of action. Five that were captured revealed under interrogation that Ugandan Regional Cooperation Minister, Philemon Mateke was the coordinator of the attack. Material evidence collected on the scene, including phone handsets, corroborated the information.
A letter Rwanda wrote Uganda, notifying Kampala “about specific issues related to the activities of Rwandan rebel groups on Ugandan territory has received no response.
Minister Biruta also decried the incessant, anti-Rwandan campaigns in Ugandan media, saying. “The continuous, aggressive media propaganda against the Government of Rwanda by different media outlets in Uganda including some that are reportedly state-owned is still ongoing,” said the minister.