By Patience Kirabo
Hundreds of Rwandan nationals that suffered abductions, arbitrary arrests, illegal detention and torture still languish Uganda. Among these victims is businessman Rene Rutagungira. The Kampala-based Rwandan businessman who was abducted on 7 August 2017 – two years now – continues to suffer the injustice of illegal detention, on top of which he is in Makindye Military Barracks though he is a civilian.
Rutagungira, who was last seen in court May this year, is presumed to still be under Military custody where he is held incommunicado, with no updates on his case. His family now fears the worst. Rutagungira was detained on charges of “espionage”, although no evidence has been presented to prove his guilt. His lawyers have continued to press Uganda security operatives for their omission, abuse of the law and violation of the victim’s rights.
The torture inflicted on him has now obviously affected his physical, mental and social wellbeing. The last time he appeared in court Rutagungira had lost a lot of weight and hardly managed to stand or move around without support. Many a time, numerous Rwandan nationals going to, or living in Uganda, have fallen victim to the lawlessness and violence of the Uganda security operatives.
“Only God knows the number of instances of abductions of innocent Rwandans Ugandan Military Intelligence CMI, or Internal Security Organization,” a Kigali security analyst said. An absurd incident that describes the Ugandan government’s hostility is when former Security Minister, General Henry Tumukunde left his office and drove to Makindye Military Barracks to personally slap and torture Rutagungira.
It turned out that the Rwandan was abducted and illegally detained under Tumukunde’s direct order.
Rutagungira’s fate is one that he shares with the likes of Emmanuel Rwamucyo, a businessman in Mbarara and Augustin Rutayisire, his friend, who in May last year were detained first in Mbarara, beaten heavily and tortured before being transferred to Kampala. These men were abducted at the orders of Mukama Moses Kandiho, brother to CMI Chief Brig. Gen. Abel Kandiho. Mukama Kandiho, a local security official in the Mbarara area, called the Second Division (Mbarara) Counter-Intelligence Officer, Maj. Mushambo, who upon arriving accused the two Rwandans of “illegal weapons possession.”
Eyewitnesses say none of the two civilians had a gun. What they had was Ushs 140 million that they were about to deposit in a Mbarara bank branch. Mukama Kandiho and Mushambo took the money, then planted guns on Rwamucyo and Rutayisire and put them under custody. These men, are languishing in Luzira Prison, with no sign there will be a fair trial for them.
While in custody, Rwandan victims of such arbitrary mistreatment and abuse of human rights suffer constant torture, harassment and starvation. In Rutagungira’s case, after suffering repeated electrocution and bouts of immersion in ice-cold water, his hands could not hold anything because they were paralyzed, said a relative.
According to Ugandan law, a suspect is not supposed to spend more than 48 hours in detention before being presented to the court to be charged. In actual practice Rwandan detainees can spend months and even years in illegal detention, in unknown locations, or in CMI dungeons. Testimonies of torture survivors those lucky to be released and dumped at the border posts, sometimes are of outright beastly things.
Currently, the security operatives have taken to beating victims to unconsciousness, blindfolding them, driving them to bushes and dumping them there. In a recent case, on 23 June, one Eric Rugorotsi was dumped in the Umuyanja River in Ntungamo by ISO operatives and was told to swim, to save his life or drown. He was told that if he encountered any police or security entity on his way or to the border, he should say that he was “released” by ISO agents.
What Rugorotsi also revealed was that his persecutors were fluent speakers of Kinyarwanda. That to him was all the conformation he needed that all along what the Rwandan government has been saying, that the Ugandan regime works with the RNC terrorist group, is true.