By Patience Kirabo
An epidemic of mistreatment of Rwandan nationals has taken hold in southwest Uganda, characterized by severe beatings, work for no pay, illegal imprisonment and other kinds of victimization.
The case of 18-year old Niyomugabo Patrick is one typical example of this victimization. Ugandans dumped him at Katuna after severely beating him with a bicycle lock yesterday, Sunday 24. Niyomugabo, who has been living in Uganda in the Kabale area, suffered gashes in the back and arms and his right eye was swollen.
His offense? He had asked a Ugandan for his money. He had provided that Ugandan a service. But instead of paying him, the Ugandan connived with members of the local authorities who had the Rwandan locked up. It is a pattern of extra-legal treatment in store for any Rwandan ever since the Museveni regime began its anti-Rwanda hostile agenda.
When they dumped Niyomugabo at Gatuna it was because they thought he was about to die. Luckily for him Rwandan authorities have rushed him to the Rwankojo Health Center nearby. He might survive his injuries.
It is a clear, ongoing pattern that also is in contravention of the objectives of the Angola Memorandum of Understanding, which in part call for treatment of each-other’s citizens lawfully, or within judicial norms.
Within the same time however the cases of two other Rwandans, Emmanuel Hitimana, 22, and Elijah Muhawe 24, is quite familiar by now to anyone knowledgeable of the mistreatment Ugandan security organs have been meting out on innocent Rwandans. Their treatment is as if Uganda is just mocking the MoU.
The two men recently suffered a stint of three months illegal imprisonment in Ntungamo. Prison torturers beat them daily and worked them like mules.
Emanuel Hitimana who hails from Kayonza District has been living in Uganda. Trouble began for him when he boarded a bus to come back to Rwanda.
When he reached Ntungamo policemen dragged him out of the bus, took his belongings and took his money, he said. They took him to Ntungamo Police Station and threw him into the jail cell. After three days of beatings they transferred him to Ntungamo Prison on allegations of “illegal entry” into Uganda and “spying”. He estimates that there are about 30 other Rwandans incarcerated there.
After three months there they took him back to Ntungamo Police Station. There, they were supposed to have given him back his property so he would go back home to Rwanda. “I was instead turned into an unpaid servant, washing clothes and gardening for policemen!” he said.
He woke up every morning to a pile of clothes to wash and grass to slash. If he slackened even a little he got a beating.
On 18 November, this year the torture reached its worst when they placed his fingers in between iron bars and squeezed them. One of his fingers broke and bled badly.
Part of the reason for his torture is that someone who called himself “Friday Freedom” had tried to talk him into joining Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC. Hitimana refused, and from then onwards he was a marked man. He says that while at the police station in Ntungamo, there were four Rwandan nationals suffering the same ordeal as him.
Elijah Muhawe who hails from Nyagatare, but who up to recently was in Uganda saw his home raided by security authorities who handcuffed him without uttering a word. They threw him in a patrol car, repeatedly kicking him on their way to the police station.
“When I asked what I had done, they said I would know when we reached the police station!” he said. They locked Muhawe in a jail cell for three days, fed with awful, kawunga and bean food. Still they did not tell him what crime he had done. Then after five days of the illegal detention they took him to Ntungamo Prison with accusations of “working with Rwandan intelligence”.
The man was taken aback. He was only a trader. It was typical of Ugandan mistreatment of Rwandan nationals: arrest or abduct someone with no charge; accuse them of some crime for which they has no proof; illegally jail, and subject them to torture, then dump them afterwards.
One night, he and a group of other Rwandans were woken up in the middle of the night and thrown out of the prison without any of their belongings, or their money which had been confiscated.
“All they gave me back was my ID,” said Muhawe.
The Ugandan security people had used the concocted accusations of “spying” so as to rob them of their phones and money.
Karemera Damascene, a Rwandan who lived and worked in the same area, Ntungamo District, was on 23 November brutally hacked by his Ugandan employer. Karemera says he is lucky to have survived his employer’s attack as it appears the intention was to murder him.
With severe cuts on his arms and head, Karemera managed to escape back home to Rwanda to seek emergency medical attention. He is now admitted at Kagitumba Health Center. He lost all his belongings.
Being a Rwandan in Uganda has become a true danger by now, observers conclude.