By Alex Muhumuza
Brutal and unlawful deportations of Rwandan citizens by Ugandan authorities are showing no signs of slowing down, going by developments at the borders, Virunga Post can exclusively report.
In the past two days alone another 20 Rwandans citizens – among them a little baby of only a few months with her mother – have been dumped intermittently by Uganda Police at Gatuna, Kagitumba and Cyanika border posts.
This Tuesday, 12 February 2019, Uganda Police dumped nine Rwandans (of them Mukandayisaba Marthe, 26, who was with her child Kizere Dorisi) at Gatuna. This lady, together with the others, has been in Luzira Prison in Kampala after the police arrested them and they were sentenced to prison on grounds of “illegal entry”.
Uganda imprisoned these people for wrongful entry although it was reported that all of them, at the different times they were arrested, had temporary passes to enter Uganda. Also, they had their identity cards that clearly indicate they are citizens of Rwanda, a member state of the EAC Common Market.
Some recently deported Rwandans have disclosed to Virunga Post that Ugandan authorities are even in the habit of tearing up a travel pass when someone shows it, and then arresting that person for illegal entry!
Analysts have repeatedly stated that Uganda is arresting and jailing Rwandan citizens in clear violations of the EAC protocols that guarantee their freedom of movement (including settling in any member state should they wish so), just like Ugandans move into Rwanda, and many even settle.
“The Community really has to question this unlawful, brutal, inhumane and discriminatory treatment of citizens of Rwanda, an EAC member state, by Ugandan authorities,” said a prominent commentator in the region.
The group that was dumped at Gatuna (together with Marthe and her baby) had been in Luzira prison, some of them as long as one year, on the same concocted charges of “illegal entry”.
They recount the horrors they encountered in prison, performing quasi slave labor that included working in farms, digging for hours. Yet, the tortured looking Rwandans recounted, even when the time they were sentenced was over Ugandan authorities persisted in keeping them at Luzira longer, prolonging the torture of hard labor and physical abuse.
On the same day, 12 February 2019, that these people were dumped at Gatuna, Uganda authorities deported five Rwandan citizens at Cyanika that had been suffering torture in Kisoro Prison. They too had committed no criminal offence in Uganda other than the usual concocted charges of “illegal entry”. This accusation has become a favorite by Uganda authorities in their campaign of harassment of innocent Rwandans.
Corrupt Uganda border authorities as well as corrupt police officers on their part have seen a “golden opportunity” to cash in on Kampala’s deliberate policy of hostility against Rwanda, and against Rwandan citizens.
“Bribery is one of the ways that can save someone from further torture!” Victims of Uganda’s ongoing violent discrimination against Rwandan nationals at the borders have consistently said. Failure to pay a bribe can mean two years in a Ugandan prison, said Kayihura Ponsiani, 53, of Burera District who was in Kisoro Prison from January 2018 up to January 2019..
Even then, according to Kayihura who says he saw everything, ‘Abagande’ (Ugandans) did, “They have to mistreat you first! They have to lock you up for several days and even months even before one can pay a bribe.”
Once you become a prisoner, Kayihura added, “You will be digging, making bricks, and if you don’t dig fast enough or if you get tired you will be beaten up!” The food they give you is “rotten kawunga and beans full of weevils!”
Some people will pay the Ugandan authorities bribes to save themselves from these terrible violations of their human rights.
Turatsinze Alexis, 21, of Burera District who was jailed just this month, 6 February 2019, in Kisoro paid a bribe of 1.5 million Ugandan shillings, so they released him, to deport him instead. The same happened to Nsengimana Florentin, 23, of Gakenke District. He too paid up 1.5 million shillings.
But even small bribes can get one out, which, according to observers is the clearest indication there is no reason behind the suffering of Rwandans beyond the mere fact of who they are. Niyomugabo Fred, 16, of Burera District could only find 30,000 shillings (that’s about Frw 7,000) to pay, and was let go to be deported.
“It is sad that this is how our government prefers to treat the citizens of Rwanda, which has welcomed us; imagine if the government here also retaliated by arresting and torturing us,” said a Kigali-based Ugandan.
The pattern continued yesterday, 13 February 2019 when Uganda authorities dumped five Rwandans at Kagitumba Border Post.
These had been incarcerated at Ntungamo Prison in western Uganda. They said there were very many Rwandans that they had left in Ntungamo Prison – up to 200 of them “doing slave labor!”
The pattern of arrests on pseudo illegal entry charges, as well as abductions, harassment and imprisonment of Rwandans at the borders has gone steeply up in the brief period since Kampala made the decision to militarize its border with Rwanda.
The Ugandan regime, in its deliberate policy of hostility against Uganda’s southern neighbor, last year in December appointed a senior military officer, Maj. Gen. Apollo Kasiita to head the Immigration Department. The claim was that they are “tightening up operations”.
But their actions speak far clearer than words. The aim is to target Rwandans, just for being Rwandans.