By Alex Muhumuza
Lawyers of some Rwandans that were kidnapped and held incommunicado by security agencies in Uganda yesterday, Monday 22, issued a press statement calling for them to be produced.
Gawaya Tegulle and Michael Aboneka, of Thomas and Michael Advocates, representing families of kidnapped Rwandans detailed five cases of kidnap by Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), and ISO (Internal Security Organisation).
Very many Rwandans in the past few years have been subjected to persecution by the intelligence agencies of Uganda. Rwandans, in some cases even women with little babies, have been pulled off buses, taken to jails, and charged with “espionage”.
The lawyers’ press release mentioned Rugorotsi Eric who was kidnaped on 25 October 2018, and Twahirwa David kidnapped on the 15th of December. It was learnt that both were abducted by ISO. Rugorotsi, a businessman was in Kampala to buy spare parts when he was taken, just like Twahirwa who was going about his affairs.
Another Rwandan national, Ntakirutimana Theoneste leader of the ADEPR Church in Uganda was taken on 28, last month, and Asiimwe Apollinaire was abducted on 7th this month. Both, it has been ascertained, were abducted by CMI. After their arrests, without warrants or other legal procedures, Uganda propaganda began to run stories of alleged links claiming its members were “Rwandan agents”.
The press release of the lawyers also cited a fifth case, that of Gasana Deus, a money-changer with Trinity Bus who was taken by ISO operatives on 3 April 2019. All these kidnapped Rwandans are held in secret places of detention without access for family members or lawyers.
The pattern of persecution, according to descriptions of dozens upon dozens of Rwandans that have been dumped at the borders – after stints in Ugandan prisons – shows that President Museveni’s government has extended its hostilities against the Rwandan state, to innocent Rwandan civilians.
It has long come to light that CMI operatives – working hand in hand with RNC anti-Rwanda rebel group – have been recruiting fighters for RNC in refugee camps or towns with any significant Kinyarwanda-speaking communities, at the instruction and approval of the highest echelons on power in Uganda.
The recruitment can also be facilitated through the abduction of Rwandans – by CMI on concocted charges of “spying for Rwanda” – who then are tortured in the agency’s dungeons or “safe houses”, until some break and agree to join RNC. Those that suffer inhuman abuse but still refuse are held for months. A few may be released and dumped in the road, or at any of the border points.
Many have displayed marks of physical torture. Government estimates that about one thousand Rwandans are incarcerated in different prisons or places of detention and not allowed to talk to anyone or be seen by anyone.
The press release denounced the fact that Rwandans are being arrested “daily by the dozen”. This corroborates protests of Rwanda – mainly through notes verbale by its diplomatic mission in Kampala – against illegal arrests, illegal detentions, and harassment of Rwandan civilians. It culminated into Rwanda taking the decision early last month to strongly advise its citizens against travelling to Uganda.
The lawyers, Tegulle and Aboneka, highlighted how CMI and ISO flout court orders. ISO and CMI have so far defied three habeas corpus orders – an order to produce a suspect to court – and ignored mandatory release orders, leaving the lawyers to question whether rule of law still exists in Uganda.
Calling for good people to speak up on behalf of the victims of this injustice, the attorneys also revealed that some of these illegal arrests may be purely for settling personal scores from certain people who deliberately want to target Rwandan nationals.
The two lawyers challenged the security services and public prosecution to give a day in court to their clients if they have any evidence. They stressed the obvious: that their clients’ continued imprisonment is in complete disregard of Ugandan, and international law.
“From recent experience, by the time such detainees are released, they have been tortured with such brutality, they are barely sane, or recognizable,” said the press release.
“We therefore invite all good people in Uganda and in the international community to condemn these crimes against humanity,” it added.