Rwandan victim of CMI torture reveals details of Mbarara recruitment cells.
By Jackson Mutabazi
Some Rwandans that have just survived the torture dungeons of Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) have revealed more shocking details of how Uganda – through CMI – works together with RNC agents to recruit fighters for the group that’s determined to destabilize Rwanda.
Hakorimana Eric, who has just survived two months of inhuman torture at CMI’s Mbuya Military Barracks headquarters, revealed that a number of Rwandans he met in custody told him of a network of RNC recruiters operating in Uganda.
But the first thing the CMI agents did was to rob the trader of his money: over two million shillings. They then took away his smart phone, he says, which had Shillings 600,000 on it. They took that money after forcing him to give them his pin number. He never got his money back.
Hakorimana heard from a steady stream of other abducted Rwandans in the CMI dungeon that there is an RNC recruitment ring, “that is very active in Uganda”, he told the press yesterday, Sunday 28. “There are several Rwandans imprisoned in CMI Mbuya, some that have been in there almost two years there.
“I learnt from them that one of RNC’s main recruiters is ‘Bishop’ Nyirigira of Mbarara. Nyirigira has a business opposite Agip Motel from where, with his son Felix, they work with CMI to recruit Rwandans for the RNC,” added Hakorimana.
What he said corroborates past news reports that one Deo Nyirigira, pastor of the Agape Church in Mbarara, indeed uses his pulpit as a disguise for his real mission in Uganda: recruiting for RNC instead of recruiting for God.
According to former congregation members of Nyirigira when he still was a born again pastor in Nyamirambo, Kigali, after he conned his Rwandan flock of millions of francs, he decided to flee to Uganda. There, he pretended “persecution”. But he was only running away from his debts, say those that know him. In Uganda he soon fell in with RNC, and became one of their prized agents.
Hakorimana added that he heard there is another RNC agent in Mbarara whose name he only learnt as Jean Luc. “I heard that any Rwandans in Uganda that they manage to recruit, they bring them to Kakiri, in Uganda.”
Some Rwandans that are lured into joining RNC are young men from refugee camps whom they deceive that they will find good jobs for once they’ve joined RNC, or that they will find them visas to Western countries afterwards.
A UN Group of Experts on DRC report – where RNC recruits are taken for training – detailed similar recruitment activities on 31 December last year.
Another recruitment methodology is to torture those they illegally arrest or abduct, the able-bodied ones, until some break and agree to join RNC. It is serious torture that includes beatings, emersion in ice water several times a day, starvation and electric shock, those that were lucky to get out have testified.
Hakorimana’s story of how he fell into CMI and RNC hands fits the template of that of so many Rwandan nationals like him that have fallen victim to them.
They arrested him in February this year in Mbarara, he details. It was in the morning, around 6 am, “when some people knocked on my door. I woke up, opened and saw it was two soldiers. They were speaking in Kinyarwanda and told me to get out of the house. In total they were five.”
One asked if he was Hakorimana Eric. He said he was.
Another barked at him that he was under arrest. They went into his house and ransacked it. Afterwards they forced him into a double cabin pickup.
“Why are you taking me; what have I done?” he asked, very scared.
“Shut up!” one of them barked. He narrates that they took him to the town of Masaka. “When we reached there that’s when they began to beat me,” he says. They had not told him what reason they arrested him for. But at Masaka as they tortured him one snarled at him: “Tell us what work you do for the government of Rwanda!”
“I told the men I have no work with the government of Rwanda.”
One of the torturers cut him with a knife, he narrated, showing the scar. They already had placed a hood over his head and he couldn’t see them. He was also handcuffed. He says they beat him so badly that they even decided to take him to hospital.
Hakorimana disclosed that his interrogators were speaking fluent Kinyarwanda.
“I am certain these people are RNC agents,” he says with emphasis. Afterwards, he continues, they transported him to CMI headquarters at Mbuya. Once there they tried some more to force him to confess that he was a Rwandan agent. He told them never. They then immersed him in a bathtub full of ice water. Afterwards one of them shoved electric wires into his body, with live current. It jolted him badly. The torture went on like that, but Hakorimana was steadfast in denying he ever was a Rwandan agent.
They tried many times to make him agree to join RNC but he said he would rather be dead than do such a thing.
All the time, his interrogators were Banyarwanda, speaking fluent Kinyarwanda. That convinced him these were RNC people. They have free reign in the CMI facility.
“Then one day towards the morning some soldiers came and began making us sign on pieces of paper,” Hakorimana said. “They then told us to go outside and into a vehicle that was outside.
“We sat in the vehicle and they drove us away. Incredibly we were going back home!”
Hakorimana says they were still in detention when news somehow got to them that the Government of Rwanda was speaking up on behalf of its citizens that have been detained by Ugandan security agencies. “We heard that our government was doing everything for us, asking Uganda to produce us,” he said.
“When we heard that we got a lot of hope! If our government was speaking up for us; if it was fighting for us, we could get out of this place!
Hakorimana is sure his release and that of a few fellow CMI victims was due to the Rwandan Government’s interventions.
He was not the only one released over the weekend from the notorious CMI, and inhuman Ugandan prisons. He was dumped along with six other Rwandans, and one baby at the Gatuna and Kagitumba border posts. Virunga Post has already detailed their abuses here.