By Jackson Mutabazi
Uganda’s propaganda organs are going into overdrive trying to spin an anti-smuggling incident that happened at a border area between Rwanda and Uganda, falsely alleging that, “Rwandan soldiers shot into Uganda”.
In the same style as the usual easily debunked Museveni regime propaganda, Kampala’s misinformation outlets are publishing things they cannot prove with facts. ChimpReports website was the first with an article published on 3 May 2019, titled in alarmist style: “Exclusive: Rwandan Security Forces Shoot Rwandan Inside Ugandan Territory.”
In an opening paragraph that was even more alarmist than the title, ChimpReports claimed that “the tension between Uganda and Rwanda rapidly escalated Thursday night after Rwandan security forces reportedly opened fire at a Rwandan man who had just escaped into Ugandan territory.” The propagandist article claimed Rwanda Police shot the man, Ndahimana Innocent, “because he was crossing into Uganda”.
When we interviewed Rwandan authorities, they said Ndahimana in fact was part of a group of eight smugglers that were carrying sacks of beans through an illegal route into Uganda. When two members of Rwanda’s anti-smuggling police – and one local security member – apprehended the smugglers, the men agreed to put their loads on the ground.
“But when the smugglers saw that they outnumbered the policemen who had stopped them; and when they saw they were in civilian clothes and did not seem armed, they tried to forcefully grab their contraband and run away with it,” a Rwandan official told this website. “One of the smugglers actually tried to physically grapple with one of the policemen, Sergeant Maniragaba Janvier, trying to harm him!”
The official narrates that it was at that point – when Maniragaba was physically threatened – that he took out his concealed pistol and shot the smuggler. The incident happened in Rubaya Sector, well within Gicumbi District in Rwanda. “Even then, Sgt. Maniragaba shot the smuggler not to kill him, but to disable him as he was clearly intent on violence.
At the sight and sound of the firearm, all the eight smugglers sprinted away into Uganda as fast they could, including the one that had been shot, his arm bleeding.
This man that was shot within Rwanda, committing a crime, is the one they are parading in Ugandan media now saying that Rwanda shot a Rwandan in Uganda! exclaimed the Rwandan official, adding, “in fact Uganda should handover this fellow, who now is a fugitive, to Rwanda to stand trial for his crimes. But Kampala propaganda organs are very happy to twist facts to suit their CMI or regime paymasters, according to security analysts in Kigali.
Next on the Ugandan media bandwagon trying to turn the incident into something it wasn’t, was a website called trumpetnews. It too was peddling the same sensationalist claim that, “Rwandan forces had shot into Rwanda”. Trumpetnews was further pushing the false Kampala-originated narrative that, “Rwanda is dealing violently with its nationals that try to cross into Uganda.”
From the first day in March when Rwanda strongly warned her citizens against crossing to Uganda, Kampala misinformation organs have been peddling the falsehood that Rwanda is, “forcefully preventing” Rwandans from going to Uganda.
The aim of Kigali’s warning to its citizens was to protect them against harassment by Ugandan security forces, mainly Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), militarized Uganda Immigration agents and others that have been illegally arresting, abducting, imprisoning, and torturing Rwandans on Ugandan soil. Articulating the warning’s reasons on his official Twitter account, Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera said hundreds of Rwandans were incarcerated in Uganda incommunicado, without being produced in court, and without being allowed consular visits.
This act by a government to protect its nationals from falling into the hands of dangerous and hostile Ugandan security agencies has apparently produced a lot of bitterness in Uganda’s rulers. “It is as if the Ugandan regime thought it has a God-given right to violently imprison and torture Rwandans; but when Rwanda takes measures to protect her people, it is an offence to the Museveni regime,” said Mwene Kalinda, a prominent Twitter account in Rwanda.
Other observers say that Rwanda’s warning to its citizens has exposed the criminality of Ugandan security agencies, “so Kampala is constantly coming up with fictitious tales to smear Rwandan security forces as the ones that are criminal.”
Last month on 18 April 2019, ChimpReports published a story alleging Rwandan troops had crossed into Kisoro, southwestern Uganda, “looking for food and drinks.” When challenged to produce proof, the website’s owners said they would show it. They never did, despite repeated challenges to do so, from many on social media.
Yet even allegedly “professional” newspapers like Daily Monitor are piling on whenever there is a false claim against Rwanda, and Monitor too has published the same allegation that “Rwanda police shot a Rwandan that had crossed into Uganda”, basing only on what the gunshot man told them as he was lying in a clinic at Katuna.
“In fact the smuggler was lucky that the Sgt. Maniragaba acted professionally and did not shoot to kill, but the Ugandans do not care for the truth,” said a Rwandan official we quoted for this story that preferred not to be named.
Others wondered why Ugandans have to buy beans smuggled from Rwanda, instead of buying those through recognized border crossings. “There are six official border crossings from Cyanika to Kagitumba, why not use them to buy things lawfully?” wondered a Rwandan border official.
“People can freely cross into, and leave Rwanda legally, why do things illegally?” he said.