By Rutore Samugabo
The Daily Monitor today, 4 March 2018, reports that Uganda has accused Rwanda of breaking EAC rules. The paper quotes Philemon Mateke – Uganda’s State Minister for Regional Cooperation – saying his country is considering petitioning the East African Community Secretariat in Arusha, Tanzania. The goal being to challenge what Kampala perceives as Rwanda’s economic sabotage, “in breach of the regional bloc’s guidelines.”
Rwanda at the beginning of this month took the decision to bar Ugandan trucks from passing through Gatuna, but to instead use the Kagitumba border post, via Mirama Hills in Ntungamo.
Kigali also took the additional measure of strongly advising its citizens to not travel to Uganda where their safety isn’t guaranteed. “Trucks and heavy vehicles are advised to use Kagitumba due to ongoing construction at Gatuna,” tweeted Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Richard Sezibera on the March 1, 2019. “Rwandans are strongly advised NOT to travel to Uganda due to ongoing arrests, harassment, torture,” he added. In another tweet, the minister listed more reasons for Rwandan nationals to avoid Uganda due to incarceration of Rwandans without consular access, deportations, and so on. However Sezibera noted that Ugandans in Rwanda, or travelling through Rwanda are safe. No one is barring any Ugandan, or national of any other country, from entering or leaving.
Philemon Mateke – who in other news is known to be the facilitator of meetings to coordinate FDLR and RNC anti-Rwanda terror groups – is the one accusing Rwanda of alleged violation of regional laws. Last year, between December 14 and 15 Mzee Mateke, under the express instructions of President Museveni, facilitated a meeting at the Kampala Serena bringing together FDLR top-level operatives, RNC, and top Ugandan security officials. The aim was to “better coordinate activities” between the two anti-Rwanda groups. But to the utter shock of Kampala, DRC authorities at the Bunagana Border arrested two top FDLR officials – LaForge Fils Bazeye, its spokesman, and Theophile Abega the intelligence chief – as they were coming from the Kampala meeting. The Congolese flew the two men to Kinshasa for interrogation about their dealings with the Museveni regime. The DR Congo authorities later deported the two to Kigali where the high value terrorists have really spilled the beans on all aspects of Kampala’s patronage of the wider sub-regional plot to destabilize Rwanda. What Bazeye and Abega said only adds to the volume of knowledge about Kampala’s skullduggery. Mateke is one of the cogs in the plot.
Another thing about old man Philemon is that he is from Kisoro – a place where security authorities have in the past few months become notorious for arresting, abducting, and jailing Rwandans. These can be ordinary people from Rwanda’s side of the border crossing over for any number of reasons – either to trade, or for social visits, just like their Ugandan counterparts regularly enter Rwanda. Other Rwandan victims of security forces in Kisoro may be passengers in buses or other vehicles – people who normally have had their papers stamped at Cyanika and are proceeding to their destinations elsewhere in Uganda. They may be teenage children going to visit a parent. They may be mothers taking a child to see the father. Kisoro-based immigration or security agencies don’t discriminate. They arrest and jail everyone.
The horrors that the Rwandan victims describe are beyond comprehension. An example is Ponsiano Kayihura, a 52 year old from Burera District who early last month was dumped (the correct term is dumped, not deportation, because with deportation there are procedures, paperwork and the like) at Cyanika with one other man, Emmanuel Tuyiringire. Ponsiano says he is 53, but if he said he was 70 none would dispute it. That is what Kisoro Prison did to him.
Ponsiano and Tuyiringire crossed into Uganda the way people that live at border communities there normally do. They had their valid Rwandan identity cards, which within the laws of the EAC Common Market is a valid travel document throughout the member states. But the next thing the two men knew, they had been arrested and charged with “illegal entry”.
That was in January 2018. Kayihura says they were jailed in Kisoro Prison for a whole year. “There they really beat you if you are a Munyarwanda!” he said in a slow tired voice. “They force you to work from morning to evening. To show fatigue means they will beat you even harder!” He described the slave-like ways Banyarwanda are treated, digging in gardens, making bricks or carrying heavy loads. “There are very many Rwandans in the prison because of illegal entry,” (“kutagira ibyangombwa by’inzira”) said Tuyiringire.
These are people that have committed no crime in Uganda. They have robbed no one. They have killed no one. Uganda has jailed them on accusations of illegal entry. That is all. And it is happening everywhere, not only in Kisoro. It is happening throughout western Uganda. It is happening in Kampala. It is happening everywhere, and the orders come right from the top, from President Museveni himself. Analysts say there is no way CMI, ISO, ESO or the others can assume such widespread powers to break laws, including EAC laws on freedom of movement, save from their boss.
Other than “spying” (for which they have never charged and convicted anyone in court), “illegal entry” is the most common concocted accusation against Rwandan citizens by Ugandan authorities. Uganda is blatantly, and repeatedly breaking EAC laws as defined in the Protocol on the Establishment of the East African Community Common Market, which came into force in 2010. Museveni himself signed it, alongside his counterparts from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
Here is what it says in “Part D”, Article 7 on free movement of persons:
1: The partner states hereby guarantee the free movement of persons who are citizens of the other partner states, within their territories.
2: In accordance with Paragraph 1, each partner state shall ensure non-discrimination of the citizens of the other partner states based on their nationalities by ensuring:
a) The entry of the citizens of the other partner states without a visa.
b) Free movement of persons who are citizens of the other partner states within the territory of the partner state.
C) That the citizens of the partner states are allowed to stay in the territories of the partner states.
These only are a few of the clear-cut laws that Ugandan operatives criminally violate against Rwandans all the time.
Now Philemon Mateke – a person who violates international norms through involvement with terrorist groups working to destabilize another country, albeit on behalf of his boss, the same whose government has broken every EAC law on free movement vis a vis Rwandans – is the one complaining that “Rwanda is interfering with cross-border trade”! Even though in fact Rwanda has done to such thing.
Philemon Mateke, even as he raises his faux complaint, must be aware there are over 40 Rwandan nationals currently in CMI dungeons, incommunicado, and suffering torture – all in violation of not only Common Market Law, but all international agreements against abuse of human rights. He must be aware that in the past year, since January 2018, over 800 Rwandans have been brutally jailed, tortured, or deported from Uganda.
Mateke says his government is considering “petitioning the EAC Secretariat” in order “to challenge” what he calls Rwanda’s sabotage.
This is an empty threat, coming from a regime that regularly violates Common Market laws. Rather the Ugandan authorities have to explain why they have so consistently, and so brutally abused the rights of the citizens of a fellow EAC member state.