By Jackson Mutabazi
The act of three Rwandans – who were illegally incarcerated in Uganda and lost their money to Ugandan authorities – to sue could result into a landmark case in the annals of the EAC Common Market, legal analysts say.
The three individuals – Ezechiel Muhawenimana, his wife Esperance Dusabimana, and Venant Musoni Hakorimana, a school teacher – on Monday filed their lawsuit against the government of Uganda at the East African Court of Justice citing harassment, torture and imprisonment on false pretenses.
Muhawenimana and Dusabimana were arrested in July 2018 in Mubende on their way to attend the funeral of a family member. They were taken off a bus in Rubanda in the Kabale area and asked to show their travel documents. The couple had travel passes. In addition to that, they say, they also had their Rwandan national IDs – something that clearly identified them as citizens of a member state of the East African Community.
The Ugandan security authorities instead confiscated their documents and put them under arrest, claiming they had entered Uganda “illegally”. The couple says the Ugandans then took the Frw 80,000 they had. After that they were taken to prison where they suffered hard labor that included digging and plowing soil on Ugandan government farms for hours in quasi slave-labor conditions. Failure to work none-stop, i.e. like machines, resulted in severe beatings with sticks, they testify. Muhawenimana and Dusabimana suffered the additional trauma of seeing their child born in prison.
Now the two are suing Uganda for this inhuman treatment.
Hakorimana’s ordeal was at the hands of Uganda’s notorious Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, CMI.
Operatives of the agency abducted Hakorimana and took him to one of its “safe houses”. CMI is engaging in ever worse inhuman torture against Rwandan nationals, the most hair-raising being the recent case when they attempted to hack off the penis of Jean de Dieu Singirankabo, a pastor of the ADEPR Church.
Hakorimana disclosed to journalists that he was illegally detained for nine months in CMI’s torture dungeon, beginning on July 12, 2018. The accusation against him was the usual one against each and every Rwandan the notorious CMI arrests: “spying for Rwanda!”
Abel Kandiho’s notorious organization has been known to arrest even old men of 62 years and accused them of being “spies” though they strenuously explained they were visiting family, to see grand children. Even teenage children going to visit parents have suffered the same fate. CMI agents have been known to arrest even pregnant Rwandan women and accused them of the same concocted charge.
“We realized long ago that these acts by the Museveni regime agencies are hostile acts against the government of Rwanda, and Rwandan nationals ever since Museveni decided to partner with groups intent on destabilizing Rwanda,” observers have often commented. There is simply no logic in jailing old men or pregnant woman; all the accusations simply ludicrous.
But now it has reached the stage where Rwandan citizens cannot keep quiet any longer. They are taking their cases where they think they can find justice.
Kigali attorney Richard Mugisha of Trust Law Chambers is taking up the case of Dusabimana, Muhawenimana and Hakorimana pro bono, and has filed the lawsuit on their behalf at the Rwanda sub-registry office of the East African Court of Justice in Kigali. The suit hinges on the fact that Uganda violated laws that govern the six-nation EAC bloc of which Uganda and Rwanda are members.
Mugisha says his clients are Rwandan nationals whose human, and other rights, were violated by the Government of the Republic of Uganda, “in complete disregard of its obligations under the protocols that established the EAC Common Market.” He said the victims want to get remedies for the bodily harm they suffered and compensation because they lost their money.
The couple is looking for US$ 100,000 in compensation; Hakorimana is seeking a million dollars.
“If Uganda thought it was going to get a free ride in blatantly violating the law, harassing and torturing Rwandan nationals at will on concocted, flimsy and baseless charges, this is a wake up call!” said a Kigali-based observer.
Others are of the view that the lawsuit of the three is a watershed moment as many of Rwandans that have suffered at the hands of CMI and other Ugandan agencies are watching closely. “It will open a floodgate of court actions against Uganda,” said the legal analyst.
This news website has been bringing to readers many accounts of Rwandan nationals that fell victim to the violations of the rights of Rwandans by Ugandan security agencies at different times, in different places. Some of the worst cases of abuse include that of Gatsinzi Fidele. In December 2017 he fell into the hands of CMI and their RNC (Kayumba Nyamwasa’s terror group) partners as he was shopping for his boy at Mukono University.
One of his abductors was Kayumba Rugema, an infamous RNC official whom Gatsinzi immediately recognized from his many virulent, hate-filled anti-Rwanda posts on Facebook. Rugema and the CMI agents kidnapped Gatsinzi and took him away to a CMI dungeon where they tortured him badly. When the Ugandan authorities dumped him at Gatuna border, he could not walk. He was confined to a wheelchair.
Moses Ishimwe Rutare whom CMI agents abducted in December 2018 after he stepped out of church service to take a phone call and accidentally walked near Kandiho’s house, still bursts out in screams. The things they did to him haunt him in his dreams. He is a traumatized man.
Singirankabo is receiving treatment on his mutilated penis.
Roger Donne Kayibanda can’t forget the ordeal in CMI headquarters in Mbuya where basement dungeons are filled with naked Rwandans lying down on bare cement, and their screams when the torture begins.
Ntakirutimana, another Rwandan pastor that suffered torture in the same place likens it to “a house of Satan.”
If all these people begin filing lawsuits against Uganda, showing the signs of torture on their bodies, Uganda could end up becoming an international pariah, analysts that have studied the implications of the first lawsuit of torture victims against Uganda say. And that is not mentioning the over 1000 Rwandans who are being held unjustly in prisons across Uganda, never having had the chance to defend themselves in a court.
The lawsuit against Uganda will be one of the most closely watched cases in recent times, analysts agree.