By Patience Kirabo
Albert Manizabayo 27 is the most recent victim to be dumped by Ugandan security operatives. This happened at the Cyanika Border Post last Friday 24 and as in such cases it followed a period of sustained torture in Ugandan detention. Manizabayo suffered repeated beatings, abuse and inhuman treatment for twelve months in Kihihi and Kabale prisons in Southwestern Uganda.
Manizabayo went to Uganda legally through the Cyanika border on August 11, 2018. He had been running a personal business in the Kisoro area. On August 13, he was accosted by unknown men who ordered him to follow them, to an isolated place. While tagging along, he kept asking who the men were. Instead of replying to him, he was pounded on the head and later thrown in a vehicle and warned not to do anything that would alert passers-by.
From there they drove Manizabayo to Kisoro Police where they threw him behind bars. At the police station, he was asked for his Identity card and travel documents. As usual, when he produced the documents proving he was in Uganda legally the security agents just confiscated them, and then accused him of entering Uganda illegally.
It is an experience that has become all too common with Rwandan victims of such harassment in Uganda. It is unlawful, it is contrary to East African Common Market Protocols, and it is just plain inhuman, said a Kigali-based attorney representing some Rwandans suing Uganda precisely for such treatment.
Manizabayo was later taken to Kihihi Prison without a court hearing. They just informed him that he was sentenced to twelve months in prison. That was because, he believes, he would not bribe the security men. Manizabayo says he was not in any way able to raise two million shillings given he was abruptly abducted, and he couldn’t reach out either to family or friends.
Due to overcrowding in Kihihi Prison, Manizabayo says they transferred him to Kabale Prison. While there, he says, he found more than 40 Rwandans too illegally incarcerated on the same charges of “illegal entry”.
Due to the torture and inhuman conditions of Ugandan prisons, Manizabayo’s health deteriorated, he narrates. He got injured on the head during one of the hard labor ordeals and has a visible scar on it. They never took him for medical treatment and he suffered constant pain from the injury, he says.
Due to his concussion, he was never the same. Miraculously to him, when the twelve months were up they released him. They probably thought he was about to die, he says. “Even when a Rwandan has served his full sentence in a Ugandan prison, they will contrive to keep him there so as to squeeze the last bit of forced labor out of him!” said Manizabayo, echoing the words of so many others before him.
Now he is back home, but worried and sad for the more than 40 fellow Rwandans he has left behind “in the hell of Kabale Prison”.