By Melodie Mukansonera
Another Rwandan has been abducted in Uganda. Francois Maurice Gasangwa was abducted on May 10, and is detained incommunicado. Long after the stipulated 48 hours when a suspect is supposed to be produced in court to be charged, or released, Gasangwa is nowhere to be seen. His family, frantic with worry, and his lawyers have filed a habeas corpus in court demanding for his unconditional release.
They also say that though Uganda should notify the Rwandan High Commission about the arrest of its citizen, Ugandan authorities have done no such thing.
Of the Ugandan security agencies reportedly at the center of continued reported abuses of the rights of Rwandan nationals, the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) has been foremost. It is CMI that family members and lawyers of Gasangwa are saying is behind his disappearance. “This group which is most responsible for ruining relations between the two countries has continued with abductions of innocent Rwandans in Uganda,” fumed another lawyer that talked off the record.
According to sources close to Gasangwa’s family, CMI operatives picked him in the Kabaawo neighborhood in the outskirts of Kampala. Family members say they “brutally shoved Gasangwa into their vehicle and whisked him away.”
According to Gasangwa’s wife, Sandra Kirabo, “the armed CMI men found us home, and handcuffed my husband without mentioning why. Then they pushed him into the car and went away. We tried tracing him but to no success.”
She trembles that they took him to CMI Headquarters in Mbuya, a place most known for its torture dungeons. A frightened Sandra then engaged the lawyers. “Our efforts to access my husband were fruitless. They persistently denied me, and the lawyers a chance to see him or know his conditions. We don’t know if he is still alive, we don’t know how much he has been tortured, we are really worried,” she said.
His lawyer Eron Kiiza filed an application against the government and CMI in the High Court demanding that Gasangwa be released from detention and reunited with his family “The continued detention without charges is illegal and inhumane,” said Kiiza who previously represented several Rwandans that CMI abused, with the same arbitrary arrests, and illegal detentions and torture.
According to the lawyer, the court application hinges on CMI’s violation of the right to personal liberty under Uganda’s 1995 Constitution, and that Gasangwa has been detained for more than 48 hours which is also illegal – so “by law he qualifies for immediate release since there is no case against him.”
For over three years now, Ugandan security operatives have been arbitrarily arresting Rwandans, illegally detaining them incommunicado in conditions of horrendous torture. Media in Kigali has recorded first hand accounts of the many that suffered these abuses over the past few years.
According to analysts, all this has been “part of a deliberate, anti-Rwanda policy adopted by Kampala, working with terrorist groups with the goal of destabilizing Rwanda.”