By Patience Kirabo
The names Monica Kayesu, Evode Habimana, Anthony Nshuti, Bernard Kwizera, Emmanuel Sindayigaya, Athel Nteziryayo, and Pascal Niyonzima are just a few of hundreds of illegally detained Rwandans still languishing in Ugandan prisons. And in ungazetted places of detention: the so-called safe houses and torture dungeons, most notoriously those run by Ugandan Military Intelligence, CMI.
For over two years Ugandan state security agencies stepped up the persecution of Rwandan nationals. They escalated the mistreatment and abuses of the rights of innocent Rwandan citizens travelling to Uganda by selectively picking out one by one from buses and other public transportation vehicles. Even when they had all legal documents, the arrests would be followed by accusations of illegal entry.
“Illegal entry became a multipurpose charge applicable to anyone the security agencies wanted thrown into a jail,” said a Kigali lawyer. Merely travelling to Uganda became hazardous for any Rwandan whether one is an old man; a pregnant woman; or a teenage child going to visit a parent. The Ugandan security agencies are also very fond of hurling accusations of “espionage” at Rwandan nationals, which they never substantiate.
The danger from CMI and ISO for Rwandans is not only for those travelling on buses. Full time residents, living in Uganda lawfully – just like there are thousands of Ugandans residing in Rwanda – have been subjected to untold injustices.
Kampala-based businessman Rutagungira was amongst the first victims of the injustices targeting Rwandan nationals, when CMI agents grabbed him from a bar in August 2017 and dragged him away. They held him incommunicado for several months, and it emerged later they subjected him to intense torture.
They first accused Rutagungira of “kidnap”, but didn’t produce him in court to defend himself. They then charged him with “espionage”. Afterwards it was “running a spy network”. When they produced the Rwandan civilian months later, it was in the Makindye Military Court, in blatant abuse of his rights.
That also was in complete contempt of Uganda’s Supreme Court, which stipulates a civilian cannot be charged in an army court. The impunity of Ugandan security agencies is limitless.
As most people know by now, the problems innocent Rwandans suffer at the hands of CMI, ISO or other Ugandan security agencies began when Ugandan President Museveni got into bed with terror groups – principally Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC – whose goal is to destabilize Rwanda. CMI for instance abducts a lot of Rwandans at the direction of RNC agents, who work hand in hand with the Ugandan agency.
It has long come to light that one goal for the abductions and torture is to find recruits for Nyamwasa’s rebel groups, which until recently had training camps in their bases in Minembwe. That is, until they were routed and completely smoked out of there a couple of months ago.
RNC agents working in CMI torture facilities at Mbuya and Kireka physically abuse and torture able bodied Rwandans in the hope some will break, and agree to be recruited rather than go on suffering. Other Rwandans that find a way to bribe CMI operatives will be lucky to get out of there alive – to be subsequently dumped at the borders suffering trauma.
But those that are still languishing in various Ugandan prisons – Kiburara, Kisoro, Kabale and many others – and who have never been tried are the overwhelming majority. It has come to light that prison authorities hire them out for slave labor – to work in plantations of wealthy Ugandans.
The way the racket works is that some big farmer with a huge farm of maize, sorghum, sugarcane or other crops for instance will “negotiate” a price with the administrator of some Prison. The administrator then will “lease out twenty (or more laborers) to clear a harvest.”
The corrupt prison authorities will order prison guards to “take Banyarwanda!” to dig and harvest; and should anyone fail to work none-stop, “beat them maximally!”
One result of Kampala’s anti-Rwanda hostility is that his criminal security agencies have identified it (hostility) as a loophole, to dump as many Rwandans into prison as possible in exchange for “a cut” from the prison authorities!, a victim that had studied the process while in Kisoro Prison told this writer.
The criminality Rwandans have suffered at the hands of Ugandan security agencies comes in different ways. The case of two Rwandan friends Emmanuel Rwamucyo and Augustin Rutayisire is a case in point. The two were abducted in Mbarara, when Rwamucyo, accompanied by his friend, was preparing to deposit Ushs 140 million in a local bank branch, according to family members.
Before Rwamucyo and Rutayisire knew what was happening they were accosted by a local security officer, one Mukama Moses Kandiho, a younger brother to Brig. Gen. Abel Kandiho the head of CMI. Moses Kandiho accused the two Rwandans of “involvement in a robbery plot”.
As they were proclaiming their innocence, Kandiho already was on the phone, summoning Maj. Mushambo the UPDF Second Division counterintelligence head based in Mbarara. Mushambo arrived with some soldiers who made a show of “searching” Rwamucyo’s car. They came out a few moments later claiming they had “found a gun in it.”
Mukama Kandiho’s charge changed to “illegal weapons possession”, and Mushambo declared the two under arrest. Meanwhile, Rwamucyo’s money “had disappeared”, family members said. Rwamucyo and Rutayisire were handcuffed, bundled into a vehicle and driven to Mbarara Military Barracks.
There, according to the wife of Rutayisire, they were badly beaten up. They were later transferred to the CMI Mbuya torture dungeon. Yet later on they were dumped into Kampala’s Luzira Prison. In May this year someone in Luzira tried to kill Rutayisire by putting ground bottle fragments into his food.
Unjustly and illegally imprisoned Rwandans continue to suffer such fates even when the Ugandan leader recently signed a memorandum of agreement that in part stipulates Rwandans must be freed.