Home Main Stories Illegally detained Rwandans; why won’t Uganda resolve that issue?

Illegally detained Rwandans; why won’t Uganda resolve that issue?

By Alain Mucyo

Rene Rutagungira (Circled).

Weeks the lawyers of illegally detained Rwandans like Renee Rutagungira, Claude Iyakaremye, Emmanuel Rwamucyo, Augustine Rutayisire and multitudes of others went public demanding Ugandan military authorities release their clients against whom they have no case, the Rwandans still languish in CMI detention centres. Lawyers Eron Kiiza and Anthony Odur of Kiiza and Mugisha Advocates have demonstrated that the state never mounted any legal case over their clients whose rights have been abused most badly by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, CMI.

Many Rwandans are held in CMI torture dungeons where they are not allowed consular or family visits. No one knows with certainty which illegal ‘safe house’ around Kampala they are held. They have been exposed to extreme physical and psychological abuse, according to their lawyers.

Read: When Rwandan nationals were rounded up in Kisoro – the story of Tuyiringire

When there has been some pretense at court procedures – in the case of Rutagungira, Iyakaremye, Rwamucyo and Rutayisire – they were stood before the General Court Martial at Makindye. That was in violation of their rights as civilians. The Ugandan Constitution itself is categorical that military courts have no jurisdiction over civilians.

The charges against Rutagungira, who was abducted by CMI in August 2017, kept changing. First it was “espionage”. Then it was “running a spy ring”, before it became “abduction of Rwandan refugees.”

The same fate has befallen most other Rwandans abducted by Ugandan security forces. Rwamucyo and Rutayisire for instance were first arrested on charges of “attempted robbery”. Then it changed to “illegal weapons possession.” Then it changed to “espionage.”

Read: Rutagungira, other Rwandans in Ugandan detention aren’t only prisoners; they are hostages as well

The erratically changing nature of the charges shows the authorities have no case against the Rwandans, legal observers say.

But even when either Rutagungira or the others were stood before the Court Martial, the prosecutors failed to produce any evidence to support their charges. This only confirmed what is obvious; the charges against the men – who have been subjected to continuous torture – are trumped up.

But the Uganda authorities are ignoring not just the laws of Uganda in the matter of the hundreds of the incarcerated Rwandans.

The Luanda MoU – signed by both the presidents of Uganda and Rwanda – and which the two countries committed to see through implementation among other important issues obliges the Ugandan government to immediately free, (or subject to a proper judicial procedure) the hundreds of Rwandan civilians illegally in jails, prisons or torture facilities all over Uganda.

As commitment to the implementation of the MoU, Rwanda organized the first meeting of the Ad-hoc Commission for its (MoU) implementation, on September 16. The resolutions signed by both parties at the end of the meeting stipulated that a follow-up meeting would happen in 30 days, in the Ugandan capital.

Read: Media Diplomacy: Rwanda Accuses Uganda Of Channelling Diplomatic Issues Through The Media

However, the 30 days passed, but Rwanda received no official communication. The second meeting did not happen as agreed. A few weeks later Rwandans learnt through Ugandan papers that the meeting had been suggested for 13 November. “What kind of way to conduct diplomatic business!” a Rwandan government official commented.

Still later on, the Ugandans again shifted the goal posts and announced they had invited their Rwandan counterparts to Kampala for the meeting, on 18 November. This date however coincided with several Rwandan officials being unavailable due to prior commitments, as a government communiqué said. Uganda will have to reschedule at a date convenient to everyone.

Meantime the relatives of all the illegally and inhumanely detained Rwandan citizens ask why the neighboring country has steadfastly refused to release, or at least even try their people. It is unconscionable to them none of these things has happened.

Meanwhile, overwhelming evidence of Uganda’s substantial support to different groups bent on destabilizing Rwanda continues to pile up.

It has been reported that General Musabyimana Juvenal alias Jean-Michel Afirika, the commander of RUD-Urunana who was killed on 9 this month close to the Uganda-DRC border, was in constant contact with Uganda’s Minister of State for Regional Affairs Philemon Mateke.

On the night of October 4, RUD-Urunana under the command of General Musabyimana carried out an attack in Kinigi, Musanze District, which claimed 14 lives and injured 18 people. The security forces repulsed the killers, killing nineteen and apprehending five.

Read: RUD-Urunana top commander killed in DRC

Three of those who managed to escape withdrew to Uganda, where sources say they are under protection of that country’s security forces. Rwanda’s diplomatic appeal for their extradition was ignored by Uganda.

This also comes following a meeting by senior military officers from the DR Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi in the city of Goma, DRC, which convened to discuss modalities of establishing a coalition force to eradicate negative foreign and Congolese armed groups operating up in the east of the vast country.

Analysts have cast doubt on the good faith of Uganda considering that Kampala has overwhelmingly been linked to several of the armed groups in question, like those of the “P5” a coalition of five groups bent on violent overthrow of the legitimate government in Kigali.

A UN report released in December 2018 confirmed that Uganda was indeed a major source of recruits for the P5 coalition.

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