By Alex Muhumuza
As if to underscore just how unreliable Kampala is as a negotiating partner, Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) through it’s propaganda website CommandPost has said, “Uganda must not set free Rwanda’s dangerous assassin Rene Rutagungira.” Following this pronouncement, yesterday people were asking: if it is CMI making such decisions what was the purpose of the visit of Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa and his team to Kigali this Monday?
The purported motive was for an ad-hoc committee – of which Kutesa’s team was part – of Ugandan and Rwandan officials to discuss implementation of the memorandum of understanding signed by the two heads of state last month.
Topmost of the contentious issues to be resolved in efforts to repair the badly deteriorated relationships is the continued harassment, illegal detentions, torture and other abuses of the rights of Rwandans in Uganda. Rwanda maintains that Uganda either should release all the Rwandans, illegally in different places of custody, or they should be afforded fair court trials.
Kigali has been categorical that if progress is to be realized, this is an issue Kampala has to address (the other being Uganda’s backing of anti-Rwanda groups, chief of them Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC).
Yet CMI is casually trashing the whole purpose of the MoU with its vendetta against Rene Rutagungira (and against other innocent Rwandans it has been abducting and torturing).
CMI’s mouthpiece, CommandPost at length smears Rutagungira, not only calling him an “assassin”, but “a kidnapper”, “Rwandan spy”, and other things that their own military courts have failed to substantiate with an iota of proof. CommandPost concocts a fanciful tale about Rutagungira’s supposed past deeds in the Rwandan military.
“Key among the criminals Rwanda badly wants to be set free is Rene Rutagungira, ‘a highly trained intelligence operative and assassin accused of carrying out a number of high profile kidnaps, murder and espionage.”
Commandpost has appointed itself prosecutor, judge and jury. The one “high-profile” kidnap it can only point at is the case of Joel Mutabazi, who back in 2011 was handed to Rwanda in a bilateral exchange of wanted prisoners between the police forces of Uganda and Rwanda.
That time the Rwandan Police handed over to Uganda Shanita Namuyimba, aka Bad Black, who was holed up in Kigali, and who was wanted to answer for crimes in her country. Joel Mutabazi had criminal cases of a dangerous treasonous nature pending against him, as detailed the Spokesperson of the Rwanda Police at the time.
Uganda Police handed Mutabazi over in full view of everyone. The suspect would receive a fair, lengthy trial in the presence of the media and the public.
Analysts observe that CMI has kept pushing the lie that Rutagungira “kidnapped Mutabazi” solely because it maintains an anti-Rwanda narrative in service of Museveni and RNC – the main proxy in the Ugandan ruler’s long-term plot to establish a puppet regime in Kigali.
“To keep the lie alive that Rutagungira is ‘a kidnapper’, ‘a spy that was working for Kigali’ and similar concocted stories is – collectively with all the lies against so many other illegally jailed Rwandans – to create justification for Kampala’s anti-Rwanda hostility, but to also induce sympathy for RNC,” analysts point out.
That was the purpose when CMI agents in August 2017 accosted Rutagungira in a bar in Namirembe Bakuli where he was having drinks with friends, grabbed him, and dragged him away as he protested and struggled. They trumped up “espionage” charges against the Rwandan; and others in a bid to tie him to former Uganda Police chief Gen. Kale Kayihura who had been arrested a few months before.
They took Rutagungira to Makindye Military Barracks and brutally tortured him.
Yet it is this same CMI through its mouthpiece, CommandPost that is sentencing the Rwandan in the court of public opinion, calling him “a criminal”.
In December 2018, Aaron Kiiza, Rutagungira’s lawyer detailed how former security minister Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde personally drove to Makindye, to slap, kick and spit at the Rwandan detainee. Tumukunde was trying to torture Rutagungira into confessing “he was a Rwandan spy”, or that he had “worked for Kayihura”. It was abuse in addition to what Rutagungira already was suffering at the hands of military torturers.
He denied everything, whatever the torture, saying he could not confess to things that weren’t true.
When he appeared at the (illegal) court martial session months later, the Rwandan’s family members could hardly recognize him; he was extremely emaciated and sickly looking. Today he still is incarcerated in Makindye Barracks, having appeared only in one sham military trial – in complete contravention of Uganda’s own constitution.
Military courts have no competence to try civilians; the country’s own Constitutional Court says. “If Uganda’s military authorities are to follow the rule of law, Rene should be long free by now,” Rutagungira’s lawyers Kiiza and Gawaya Tegulle have repeatedly said, filing motions to have their client released to no avail.
The Rwandan’s case on torture – filed by his attorneys – is in the Uganda High Court.
Until today his persecutors haven’t recorded a statement from him, though they have put him on a charge sheet together with the policemen that (legally) handed Mutabazi to Rwanda – something that, his attorneys point out, isn’t proper and has no legal justification.
In Museveni’s ‘justice system’ abducting, and incarcerating someone for two years with no charges; no court appearance, and constant changing of charge sheets is the norm!, said an observer.
Currently it is estimated over a thousand Rwandan nationals are incarcerated in different Ugandan prisons, as well as in torture dungeons run by the country’s intelligence agencies – most notoriously CMI’s – as well as in ungazetted places of detention and torture, the so-called safe houses.