By Rutore Samugabo
It has been revealed that one of the methods Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) uses to victimize Rwandan nationals – whom it then fills its cells, dungeons and “safe houses” with – is to offer monetary rewards to “Ugandans about town” who will show its agents Rwandans “suspected of being spies.” Those “Ugandans about town” can be boda boda taxi riders, bus conductors or drivers at the bus parks and other people one can accurately call idlers.
This was disclosed by Rogers Donne Kayibanda, 43, who was deported by Ugandan authorities, on Friday, 1 March 2019, from Kampala where he had spent 49 harrowing days in detention at CMI headquarters in Mbuya Army Barracks in the Ugandan capital. Kayibanda – whose abduction by CMI operatives on 11 January this year attracted much media attention – says while in detention he learnt a lot by listening to multitudes of fellow detainees, the majority of them Rwandans.
“When in detention, you learn much by listening,” said Kayibanda. “One of the things people said repeatedly in there is that CMI is offering any common fellows around town, ‘those that know their way around town’, from 80 to 100 US dollars to anyone that can show them “suspected Rwandan spies.’” For those that know Luganda, such “fellows that know town well” normally are called bayaye. City lumpens.
“These normally are people that, because they usually are very hungry and because there is money to be made, will point anyone to CMI,” Rogers emphasized. “It is just a matter of following any Rwandan off a bus, or anyone they may hear speak Kinyarwanda, and give him away.”
Kayibanda’s ordeal began that day (11 January) when he was in the Kisaasi neighborhood of Kampala sharing a drink with friends. He had travelled to the city to attend his younger brother’s civil wedding ceremony. Afterwards, they had gone to a sauna, and from there headed to a bar with old friends. Rogers was born in Uganda and still has plenty of friends there. He has relatives there, and his mother too lives there. He says he was reminiscing about old times with friends over drinks when someone entered the compound where the bar is and headed towards him.
“The man told me to step aside and have a word with him for a minute.” Rogers says he did as requested, but before he knew what was going on, five other men had surrounded him and, despite his protests that he had done nothing wrong, bundled him into a dark van. “In the van I was surrounded from all sides, and the men began retrieving guns from under the seats. I thought this is it, I am a dead man!”
Perhaps someone had overheard him and his friends talking about Kigali, and informed CMI, Rogers thought.
Kayibanda is not the first Rwandan to suffer similar abduction by the dreaded CMI.
Countless numbers of Rwandans have been taken like that, and held incommunicado, so much so that Rwanda has this week taken the extraordinary step of strongly advising its nationals not to travel to Uganda. According to Rwandan authorities this is to protect any more of its people from falling victim to such abductions, or arrests with no due process.
Kayibanda says that once in the car, the men placed a heavy hood over his head, “something like a big hat”, and cuffed his hands. This is similar to how Damascene Muhawenimana – a Rwandan who suffered torture in CMI dungeons when he went to look for his brother, another one abducted by the same agency – described his arrest. They placed a hood over his head too, and handcuffs en-route to detention.
Rogers says that when they got to Mbuya he did not at first know where he was, but after a few days he would learn it was the dreaded CMI headquarters. They proceeded to deprive him of his belt, wallet, watch and shoes – the procedure of jailing. This is consistent with CMI ways of imprisoning people in utter disregard of any laws. Already Rogers’ family members were sick with worry. The Rwanda High Commission sent a note verbale to the Ugandan foreign ministry on the Rwandan’s disappearance. There was no response from the Ugandan authorities, as usual.
At CMI, Rogers says the first person to interrogate him asked him whether he was a major in RDF (Rwandan military).
“I told him I have never been in any military,” Rogers says.
“Please do not play games with me, you are a Rwandan army man, a major!”
“I am not!”
“Do you want me to bring someone to beat you? Just tell the truth to avoid getting hurt!”
“I am telling the truth!”
Rogers says the man pushed the hood back on his head, and he was ushered back into the corridor, still in handcuffs. He was there three more days, then they took him to another interrogator who repeated the same questions as the first. He said the same things. Back to the corridor they pushed him, again.
Rogers says he spent something like two weeks there. He slept there, sat there, and they gave him his foul-tasting kawunga maize gruel and beans there, which he ate on the floor. Then they took him to a basement dungeon. “There are very bad things happening in that CMI house!” he disclosed. “Most of the detainees in there are Banyarwanda, and many have been severely beaten. There is serious torture! One man was so badly beaten that his legs were broken. Another had an arm broken.” Rogers says he was very lucky, personally, that he was not beaten or physically abused, the way other Rwandans he saw were.
It happens that the family of Kayibanda has known that of the CMI head, Brig. Gen. Abel Kandiho – whose mother was a Munyarwanda – in the past. Kandiho is a very feared person in Uganda, a law unto himself. He has power of life and death over all those that his thug-like agents abduct, kidnap, or extra legally arrest. In the lawless kind of system that Uganda has evolved into, someone like Kandiho is at once accuser, jury and judge to his victims.
That his family was known to Rogers’ raises the strong possibility that is why he escaped the appalling physical abuse he saw meted out on the other Banyarwanda in the dungeon. Kayibanda says that while in detention he was taken to meet Kandiho, but he had nothing to tell him. “I was taken to meet him twice,” says Rogers.
While in the dungeon, Rogers also heard a lot of talk about how there is much recruitment for the RNC terrorist group of Kayumba Nyamwasa, which Kampala through its intelligence agencies like CMI and ISO is facilitating and actively aiding in all its activities. What Rogers heard only confirms what many others, including a UN group of Experts in their report, have been saying. Uganda is a hotbed of RNC activity.
When they released him after more than a month and a half in illegal, inhumane captivity, they deported him to Rwanda. He was with one other man, someone called Kwizera.
Rogers was extremely lucky because only those known to Kandiho, or those that can offer hefty bribes, can escape the clutches of CMI in a relatively short time and with their health intact. Those with no such advantages may languish there indefinitely, and even those lucky to eventually come out alive are completely damaged. Kayibanda says there are Rwandans he has left that have spent up to a year there, and others longer than that.
But even when they released him, he says, they did not give him all his documents back. They retained his ID card, and his BK ATM card. “They had tried to charge me with illegal entry, but all my papers were in order and I had lawfully entered Uganda. So they had to do something to show there was something suspicious about my stay in Uganda, like showing I had no ID!”
Thus goes Uganda where bayaye are given incentives to falsely finger unsuspecting Rwandan travellers as “spies”, and where such accusations usually earn one a long stretch in a CMI hellhole. All in utter disregard of Uganda’s international legal obligations, as well as in breach of the EAC protocols regarding free movement of goods, and Community citizens across member states.