By Alex Muhumuza
On September 17, 2019 Uganda’s propaganda website, Command Post, wrote an article titled, “Uganda must not set free Rwanda’s dangerous assassin Rene Rutagungira.” It then tried to justify why Rutagungira must not be set free by listing people that were apparently killed with his involvement. Interestingly, this fits a pattern where the authorities in Uganda don’t seem to make up their minds about the crimes that innocent Rwandans are accused of having committed. It is trumped up charge after another, every time they change their mind about what charge they wish to accuse them of.
After CMI kidnapped Rutagungira at a bar in Kampala in August 2017, the authorities in Uganda denied that they were holding him. When contacted on the matter by Rwanda’s High Commission, the Ugandan Foreign Ministry was very adamant that none of the country’s security agencies was holding him. Until the CCTV camera showed people who were known to be CMI operatives capturing Rutagungira and bundling him into a waiting vehicle that then sped away. At the bar, the owner and servers corroborated what was on the CCTV. Then the authorities were forced to admit that Rutaganira was indeed at a CMI detention facility.
Rutagungira has been in custody on ever-changing charges, all trumped up, with authorities going back and forth about the crimes he has allegedly committed. The most recent harebrained charge that Command Post is writing about is that of assassinations. Then it is that he was responsible for kidnapping and repatriating Lt Joel Mutabazi to Rwanda.
However, Uganda Police officers who were arrested for allegedly repatriating Lt Mutabazi illegally have been charged though none has been convicted; others have been handled within the Uganda Police Force’s internal disciplinary processes and have been reinstated back into service.
Convictions were never going to be possible as Mutabazi was handed over to Rwanda lawfully within the framework of an EAPCCO (Eastern African Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation) mutual repatriation agreement on fugitives from each other’s jurisdictions. Both Uganda and Rwanda are signatories of this agreement. They also have bilateral arrangements between the Uganda and Rwanda police forces to facilitate return of each other’s fugitives in the context of combatting cross-border crime. It is under these frameworks that Lt Mutabazi was legally repatriated by the Ugandan authorities to Rwanda.
Uganda has benefited much more than Rwanda under these arrangements: with Rwanda returning 26 criminals to Uganda in return for only nine Rwandan criminals. Among those Uganda received was Shanita Namuyimbwa, aka Bad Black, who was wanted in Kampala for charges to do with financial fraud.
At the time of Joel Mutabazi’s repatriation the head of Police, Kale Kayihura wasn’t even in the country, and the go-ahead was given by Gen Muhozi Kainerugaba, the First Son, no doubt with the authorisation of his father.
It is therefore baffling that Rene Rutagungira remains in custody at Makindye Military Barracks in Uganda on the basis of an accusation of coordinating the kidnap of someone handed over to Kigali in full accordance of legal frameworks bringing together the two countries and after the repatriation was approved at the highest levels of the Ugandan state. No charge sheet has ever been prepared against him and efforts by the Rwanda High Commission to have him freed or charged in court have fallen on deaf ears.
People wonder why, if this evidence existed all along, they hadn’t already been brought to court rather than holding them long beyond the 48-hours limit provided by Ugandan law, torturing them, and denying them access to lawyers, as well as stonewalling the Rwanda high commission in Uganda that had done everything possible to intervene on their behalf.
Others have been similarly framed. In May 2018 Augustin Rutayisire was arrested in Mbarara by Mukama Moses Kandiho, a brother of Ugandan Military Intelligence chief Brig. Gen. Abel Kandiho. Kandiho and his officers said they suspected Rutayisire and his colleague, Emmanuel Rwamucyo, of plotting to carryout a robbery. They feigned searching their vehicle only to plant guns there and claiming that they were arresting them on illegal possession of fire arms.
The health of Rutagungira and Rutayisire is said to be seriously deteriorating and the risk of death high. Some people have been released in similar conditions only to die shortly after. Just a couple of months ago, Nunu Johnson succumbed to death after failing to access cancer medication in a ‘safehouse’. Others have died from effects of torture; some with permanent body injuries. Hategekimana Silas, 43, was arrested in Uganda on May 25th; he was tortured before the authorities dumped him at the Kagitumba border on 12 June, 2019. He died on 31, August 2019 with the autopsy confirmed that he had succumbed to the effects of the torture that had been carried out against him in Ugandan cells.
Meanwhile, the authorities in Rwanda have done everything within their power to intervene on behalf of their citizens. However, persistent stonewalling by Kampala eventually prompted the decision to strongly advice Rwandan nationals against travel to Uganda because their “security could not be guaranteed.”
The abuse of Rwandans, including torture has failed to attract the attention of such organizations as Human Rights Watch (HRW) or Amnesty International (AI); surprisingly, since these same bodies never fail to lecture to Rwanda incessantly regarding imaginary human rights violations.
The organizations that are eager to defend convicted criminals like Victoire Ingabire and genocidaires in UK safe havens now can’t seem to find the energy to defend innocent people languishing in cells and ungazetted torture centres in Uganda for more than two years.
Do these innocent people need to actually commit crimes for HRW and AI to consider them worth speaking up for? Or do human rights matter only if it is Rwanda being accused of violating them, even when it is based on fiction?
And so, we find ourselves in a situation where those whose rights have been trampled on by Kampala may now face trumped up charges in the total indifference of those who love to lecture incessantly on human rights violation.