By Patience Kirabo
Esperance Mujawimana – one of the 132 Rwandans deported and dumped at the border early last month following illegal detention, incommunicado, torture and forced labor in Uganda– is very worried about her family which she left back in Uganda.
For six years – since 2013 – Mujawimana had been living in central Uganda, doing a respectable business as a trader, getting married and settling in the Kiboga area, all legally. While in Uganda the 27-year-old, who hails from Musanze District also met a suitor – a fellow Rwandan called Richard Kabuga whom together with they decided to settle in Kiboga, working hard to raise a family. They bore two children and were a happy family. Mujawimana also has a sister in Uganda.
As citizens of Rwanda, members of the EAC, there was no reason at all that their lives should be endangered in Uganda. Documents such as the Protocol for the Establishment of the EAC Common Market were supposed to guarantee their protection against arbitrary arrests, and all kinds of illegal mistreatment. “Above all, there are thousands of Ugandan citizens in Rwanda, working and enjoying every right as nationals of a fellow member state as set out in the protocols,” said a Kigali-based lawyer.
For Rwandans such as Mujawamariya, however, the future, unknown to them, had become very bleak. Kampala had decided to get into bed with rebel groups, such as Kayumba Nyamwasa’s sworn to destabilize Rwanda, with Kampala’s security agencies tasked to facilitate them in all ways possible. One of those ways was persecution and harassment of Rwandans, either visiting or living in Uganda.
Suddenly a lot of Rwandans that knew completely nothing about these kind of politics would find themselves accused of “spying for Rwanda”, or “illegal entry”, and similar accusations. Ordinary businessmen and traders would find themselves abducted by agents of Ugandan Military Intelligence (CMI) on accusations of “illegal weapons possession”, or “kidnap”, leaving them completely terrified as they were dragged away to torture chambers.”
“Ugandan security agencies operate on the principle of complete impunity; as long as their bosses have given them the go ahead,” said the lawyer.
Mujawamariya’s suffering began on January 16, 2019 when she was arbitrarily arrested while on her way back to Rwanda to visit family members.
“First, I was detained in Kisoro for three days without being told what I had done,” she narrates. While in the Kisoro cells, she says, she pleaded to speak to her husband or her family to inform them of her arrest. “I begged them to at least allow me to communicate with my husband and tell him so that he and the children at least know my whereabouts, and inform my family to not wait for my arrival in vain, but the police officers rudely refused. One slapped me!” says Mujawimana, saying this was after she pleaded some more that she had two young children.
After three days in the Kisoro Police cells, they took her to Ndorwa Prison on accusations of “illegal stay” and “illegal entry” into Uganda though she was never presented in any court of law to defend herself.
Mujawamariya was to spend a year and three months in Ndorwa Prison of Kisoro doing forced labor including digging in the prison farm while suffering brutal beatings. The distraught woman wipes away her tears. She adds that the food, every day was “just awful, smelly kawunga (posho) with weevil infested beans that even an animal would fail to eat.”
She thanks God saying that while in prison she and fellow incarcerated Banyarwanda would hear news of the tireless efforts the Rwandan government was waging to get the hundreds of them illegally incarcerated and tortured in Uganda. “Let the kind God give our government all blessings,” she says.
The efforts bore fruit in her case when she was released from Ndorwa with others, and deported to Cyanika Border Post, where the Ugandan authorities dumped them.
She worries about the fate of her husband, her children, and her sister in Kiboga, Uganda. She spends sleepless nights. “I’ve heard that my family is receiving constant threats. My husband is always being told that he and our children have no business staying in Uganda and that he should just follow his wife back to Rwanda,” she said.
Things like these keep happening even after Uganda on numerous occasions has verbally pledged adherence to Luanda MoU, which obliges them to desist from mistreatment of Rwandan nationals.