By Alex Muhumuza
The Uganda General Court Martial siting in Makindye, Kampala yesterday released seven Rwandans: Rene Rutagungira, Claude Iyakaremye, Ernest Rwamucyo Augustine Rutayisire, Bahati Mugenga, Etienne Nsanzabahizi and Charles Byaruhanga from detention.
According to Kampala media reports, the army prosecution led by Lt. Col. Raphael Mugisha tendered before the court a document indicating that, “they had lost interest in the case”. The court, presided over by Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti endorsed the withdrawal of the charges and set the men free.
Immediately afterwards Eron Kiiza the lawyer of the wrongly detained Rwandans – the Ugandan authorities never presented any evidence against them even though some have been in custody over two years – welcomed the decision. But he demanded that his clients be compensated for malicious persecution.
In Kigali Olivier Nduhungirehe the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in Charge of the East African Community said Uganda releasing the Rwandans was a good gesture, but that “it should be followed by releasing hundreds more jailed inside the country.”
Although seven long-suffering Rwandans are released, very many remain in illegal detention. However, this is a positive step towards the implementation of all aspects of the agreement and we look forward to even more progress.
Indeed, with the release of the seven Rwandans, some of the high profile innocent prisoners, people can begin to hope that Uganda is embarking on a different course.
Even government officials in Kigali, such as Nduhungirehe – who also is the leader of the Rwandan team of the Ad-Hoc committee on implementation if the Luanda MoU – are expressing hope. “It is a first good step,” he emphasized.
“This could be the beginning of something good!” remarked a Kigali resident.
Meantime Betty, the wife of Rutayisire was in disbelief that her husband – who amongst other things almost died when he ate food contaminated with glass fragments in Luzira Prison – is at last free.
“Thank God; thank God so, so much!” she cried when contacted by this website.
Everywhere, Rwandans whose loved ones, relatives, or friends still are detained in the neighbor country will be waiting to experience similar joy.