By Alex Muhumuza
The burial in neighboring Uganda recently of one Sidini Muhereza (a smuggler that Ugandan media for its own reasons continues to call “a businessman”) was remarkable in that the priest at the funeral service kept using language of the kind one normally hears from the mouths of leaders of armed rebel groups.
“Our people are killed whenever they cross over to Rwanda and it’s painful each time we receive bodies from Rwanda,” said the priest in remarks carried verbatim by Commandpost – one of the several Kampala websites or social media sponsored by Ugandan Military Intelligence (CMI), in its anti-Rwanda propaganda campaign.
“But whenever Rwandans come over here, we do not kill them! Is the reason a shortage of guns?” he asked.
The man of God practically was calling for the shooting of Rwandans. Not only that, he was doing so on the basis of factually wrong accusations (that “our people”, meaning Ugandans are killed whenever they cross).
Was this priest sent by the Ugandan Government to talk such propaganda? One wondered.
Before the outbreak of Covid-19 that restricted movements, anyone that passed by the legal, recognized, gazetted border crossings – Gatuna, Cyanika, Kagitumba and others – will see how an endless stream of Ugandans, in buses, private cars, or on foot, cross into Rwanda. The Ugandans that use these legal routes are safe. They are treated with respect. And when they decide to go back home, there isn’t a hindrance in their way.
So why was that priest misinforming people?
To know the truth about Sidini Muhereza – the deceased man whom Kampala’s propaganda media won’t stop calling “a businessman” – is to wonder about the priest’s motives. Was he there just to amplify another falsehood against Rwanda?
Muhereza was not “a businessman”. His behavior the day he died – on June 2– showed he was an aggressive smuggler determined to let nothing stop him. The man moved into Rwandan territory in the middle of the night transporting on his bicycle a big jerrycan of crude waragi, Kanyanga, classified as an illegal intoxicant in Rwanda. In addition, he was transporting two cartons of matchsticks. That was not all. The man also was carrying a machete and a spear.
What type of “businessman” is this that crosses into the territory of another country beyond midnight, carrying illegal substances, or trade goods for which he isn’t willing to declare at a customs point, while also ready to do battle with sharp weapons?
This was a suicidal smuggler, and the Ugandans know it, which is why they keep vaguely writing “businessman” in their articles while omitting all facts like these. Or others such as that the residents of Bigagga Parish in Kabale District, Uganda, where the dead man lived, knew him as “a habitual smuggler” who liked to boast that “no one would ever stop him!”
Inquiries with Rwandan border authorities showed that on the night he died, he was 12 kilometers inside Rwandan territory – around the Kamatengu Village, Ruconsho Cell, Rwerere Sector in Burera District. When a Rwandan security patrol spotted him and ordered him to stop, it is reported the smuggler, “just went berserk, grabbing his weapons to attack members of the patrol. In such a dangerous situation, security men are authorized to shoot in self-defense and that’s what happened,” said our border source. But this incident also happened in the course of the smuggler trying to impede the patrol from enforcing the laws of its country, he said.
“Yet now even a man of God, who should call for his people to respect law and order instead is inciting violence,” our source said, shaking his head. “The priest instead should discourage criminality.”
Rwandan officials advise Ugandans, or any other nationality that if they want to do trade, it should be through proper, legal channels, via recognized, gazetted border crossing points, in broad daylight. “The priest should have been advising his people about these solution, and not condoning criminality, drug smuggling, or other illegal behavior!” added our source.
On the other hand, the official added, Ugandans should also know that Rwandans are extra vigilant about people that try to use illegal “panyas” or unrecognized routes.
Members of terrorist groups have in the past used panyas to perpetrate attacks into Rwanda, a major example being the one by RUD-Urunana last October in Kinigi that killed 14 civilians before the security forces repulsed the attackers, killing 19 and capturing five alive. Four managed to escape – to Uganda where they reportedly were received and sheltered by a UPDF detachment.
“Rwanda will never relax its vigilance even a second against anyone trying to enter through illegal crossings. Rwanda can never relax where her security is concerned!” our source emphasized.