By Jackson Mutabazi
An editorial in the current issue of The East African newspaper under the title “Rwanda-Uganda border shootings an ominous sign”, falls into the trap of repeating Museveni regime propaganda talking points.
The editorial talks about the recent tragic incident when a Rwandan border patrol intercepted a suspected smuggler, Rwandan national Jean Pierre Nkerenke. The smuggler was riding a motorcycle laden with contraband through an ungazetted crossing point, but when the patrol tried to lawfully arrest him he violently resisted. That was in the Tabagwe Sector of Nyagatare District, in Rwanda.
The East African repeats Uganda government misinformation that “Rwandan border security pursued Nkerenke into Uganda and shot him there, along with a Ugandan, Alex Nyesiga.”
According to eyewitnesses, when the smuggler resisted arrest, a mob of villagers from just across, on the Ugandan side quickly rushed to help Nkerenke. They were acting quite violently, some like Nyesiga brandishing machetes. “It was clear some were accomplices of Nkerenke in the smuggling activities,” said a Rwandan border official.
As Nkerenke and the mob resisted orders to calm down, becoming more menacing instead, a member of the Rwandan security team opened fire. Nkerenke lost his life. A bullet also struck Nyesiga. He too later lost his life, after running away from the crime scene. But during the scuffle the villagers dragged the body of Nkerenke away.
No member of Rwandan security forces crossed into Uganda to kill anyone. Photographs showed the dead man’s motorcycle laden with the contraband – two bales of second-hand cloth. It had a Rwandan registration number plate. It was taken to Nyagatare Police Station.
The East African should also have been aware that local government, and security officials from both Uganda and Rwanda convened at the scene of the shooting. After the meeting all agreed the incident had taken place on Rwandan soil.
Even GPS coordinates have show the smuggler was killed on Rwandan territory, not Uganda.
The Rwandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a communication to its Ugandan counterpart said that. The East African editorial team should at least have been aware of that. Which makes their attempts to portray Rwanda as involved in some wrong doing particularly dismaying.
The East African, more than any other publication should strive to be arbiters of the truth in regional matters.
Also, any neutral observer should be disturbed by the Ugandan administration’s decision to play politics with a dead body. That is when it gathered members of Kampala’s diplomatic corps to lead them on a journey to the border “to hand over the body to Rwanda”!
Why, one wonders, did the paper not write a strong editorial pointing out the obvious hypocrisy of the Ugandan administration in pretending it cared for the dead body of Nkerenke? That is in view of the fact Uganda’s security forces have for more than two years now been targeting all kinds of Rwandan nationals – men, women, teenagers, children, grandfathers and mothers – harassing them with arrests on false pretexts such as “illegal entry” or “espionage”.
Is anyone unaware that Rwandan nationals have been tortured by Ugandan security services to the extent some now move in wheelchairs? Fidele Gatsinzi is one such victim. He was abducted in December 2017 while on a trip to the Ugandan capital to visit his son by Ugandan security operatives who tortured him so badly he could no longer walk.
What happened to him was first and foremost blatantly illegal, but also against the law and spirit of EAC protocols on how government should treat nationals of member state. Even if one were suspected of an offense they are to be treated humanely, and through a transparent court process in accordance with international law.
But Ugandan security agents merely abduct the nationals of another state; torture them for lengthy periods and dump them at the borders.
These are the questions that a paper like the East African should be asking.
One can mention some names: Rene Rutagungira, Moses Ishimwe Rutare, Damascene Muhawenayo, Roger Donne Kayibanda, Jean Mucyo, Ernest Rwamucyo, Augustin Rutayisire, Darius Kayobera, Uwineza Claudine. These only are a very few of the Rwandan nationals that have been kidnapped by operatives of Uganda’s military Intelligence, CMI.
They have been robbed of their money and property by CMI agents. They have been accused of “espionage”, “illegal entry” and some “illegal weapons possession”. They have been held incommunicado – despite repeated requests by the Rwandan High Commission in Kampala to see them – and all have been tortured.
Some, when lucky to be released from the dungeons of CMI, have been transported and dumped at the border. What kind of behavior is this? What kind of state tortures people on mere assumptions of whatever offense that have cooked up? We will let the reader draw their conclusions.
Such activities and others – which Rwanda never reciprocates – clearly show Uganda has a hostile agenda against Rwanda.
Are these people “suffering because of a rift between leaders?” as The East African once again advances Uganda’s “both sides” narrative.
Moreover the same paper peddles Uganda propaganda that Rwandans harassed and deported from Uganda aren’t being taken to court because Kampala “is having trouble putting them in trial within a reasonable time.”
“Kampala could simply deport them,” writes The East African in a fashion that actively calls for the deportation of citizens of the East African Community in violation of treaty laws!
Further, in the same editorial is a statement like, “Kigali has told its citizens that they are taking a large risk when they travel to Uganda, but many don’t perceive that as a risk!” One wonders whether the editorial writer conducted some sort of census to determine that “many” Rwandans don’t perceive the advice of their government to be warranted.
In the view of the paper, doesn’t the situation involving hundreds of deported Rwandans and the list above of tortured and dumped, constitute a risk – large or small?
When Uganda’s support, facilitation and hosting of groups bent on destabilizing Rwanda is factored in, it no longer is disputable that in the current bad climate between the two countries, Uganda is the source of problems.
If the East African is afraid to say so, the next best thing would be to keep quiet rather than publish articles that only confuse the uninformed.