By Mary Cyusa
45-year-old James Makombe is a Ugandan of Rwandan descent, and that led him to being victimized in Uganda. He is one of the many victims of the Ugandan regime’s hostile stance against Rwanda, and Rwandan nationals. Makombe says nothing short of God saved him after the torture that members of Ugandan security forces inflicted on him back in Uganda.
“Having gone through that I don’t know how much I can thank the Government of Rwanda for the welcome it gave me!” says the humble-sounding man who currently resides in Nyagatare District.
Makombe had lived in Uganda all his life. He was born to Jean Kamigindi and Therese Mukagatare, and practically was a citizen of Uganda, having never set foot in Rwanda. His story is the story of so many Ugandans that have Rwandan roots who in the recent years have been caught up in the Ugandan regime’s anti-Rwanda stance that has indiscriminately targetted innocent people for no other reason than that they are Rwandans, or Ugandans of Rwandan ancestry.
As a young man Makombe earned a degree in theology, from Global University Uganda, after which he became a pastor. Before Ugandan forces targetted him for harassment and torture, he was a pastor of the Apostles and Prophets Church in Uganda.
According to his friends, Makombe was a happy man, known for his integrity and passion for serving God. But then all his life’s work was suddenly snatched from him when on 17 March, 2020 he was arbitrarily arrested, and illegally detained incommunicado by agents of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) at its headquarters of Mbuya Military Barracks. The accusation was “espionage.”
It is one of the favorite concocted accusations of CMI against Rwandans or people of Rwandan ethnicity, and it is an accusation that, according to past victims of torture by CMI, almost a death sentence.
“I was so surprised. Some men came to my house and just grabbed me and took me to Mbuya. I was later told I was being accused of espionage, something that as a man of God I knew completely nothing about!” narrates Makombe, adding that some of the men “spoke Kinyarwanda fluently.”
Agents of RNC, such as one Kayumba Rugema, a Rwandan citizen that also is a deserter from the RDF in which he was a corporal, have been seen working with CMI, abducting innocent Rwandans and torturing them in the Mbuya dungeons. While in detention, Makombe said, he and a number of other Rwandans “suffered some serious beatings, so much that some appeared to be losing their mind because of the pain.”
The torture also included electrocution, being immersed in ice water, and being starved whereby they ate only once a day, “always smelly posho and watery beans.”
After four months of such suffering, Makombe and others were suddenly released, and deported on 7 July this year alongside 11 others who were dumped at the Kagitumba Border Post. “I could not believe I was out of the Mbuya hell!” he exclaims, saying at one time he was certain he would die. “Now I have learnt of the fight our government put up to have us, and many other Rwandans released. Without that fight we would surely be dead!”
In Rwanda he and his fellow former detainees were immediately taken to hospital and treated for their injuries, “although some will be permanent,” he says.
He laments how he lost his life’s work in Uganda, where lawfully he was a citizen. “I lost my house, my job, and my car. Everything I worked hard for, I lost. I hope to find justice one day,” he says, almost on the verge of tears.