HomeMain StoriesThe ordeals of Rwandans illegally incarcerated in Uganda go on with no...

The ordeals of Rwandans illegally incarcerated in Uganda go on with no end in sight

By Patience Kirabo

Rene Rutagungira (Circled).

Well after the Angola Memorandum of Understanding is signed and gathering dust on shelves; and well after a Ugandan team – part of the ad hoc Committee on implementation of the MoU has travelled to Kigali, met with its Rwandan counterparts and gone back saying good things – hundreds of Rwandan nationals still languish in different places of detention and torture in the neighboring country.

People like Rene Rutagungira, Augustin Rutayisire, Emmanuel Rwamucyo, Darius Kayobera (and his wife Claudine), and so many others seem to be condemned to indefinite illegal detention in inhuman conditions – some at the very risk of losing their lives. None of them was arrested through lawful means, such as issuance of arrest warrants detailing any offense.

They have never seen the inside of a court, to defend themselves. Instead the likes of Rutagungira, Rwamucyo, Rutayisire and others have been dragged to Makindye General Court Marshall, meaning further abuse of their rights as civilians. It is against the law even of Uganda to take civilians to military courts.

Read: Rwandan hospitalised after being tortured in Uganda

The families of the detained Rwandans, almost all of who are held incommunicado, are in despair. Their hopes wane every day that their people remain in custody. They shudder to think of the terrible things happening to them.

The story of businessman Rene Rutagungira is particularly indicative of the notoriously lawless nature of Ugandan security agencies, most notably the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, CMI. The Rwandan national was accosted in August 2017 in a bar in Namirembe Bbakuli, a Kampala suburb, while sharing a drink with friends.

To everyone’s shock the men, who had shown nothing to identify them, proceeded to manhandle Rutagungira, dragging him away as he struggled and fought, asking what he had done and where they were taking him. It turned out that these were CMI fellows engaged in abduction – their favored modus operandi. They just dragged him away and sped off with him in their vehicle.

Read: In Ugandan prisons Banyarwanda aren’t treated like people, dumped Rwandan says

His wife Hyacinthe Dusengeyezu was in consternation as she waited all night and Renee didn’t return. The next she heard of him was in media stories that he was charged with “espionage”. Soon the story changed that he was “in charge of a spy ring in Uganda!” There were several stories in Kampala regime propaganda media that he was “working with (former Uganda Police Chief) Kale Kayihura.”

Yet another allegation was that Rutagungira had been “involved in abducting Rwandan refugees!” It was all very confusing, said his wife who insisted the only activity of Rene was running his businesses in Uganda. The changing accusations were clearly indicative that the Ugandan security authorities were just framing Rutagungira. They even concocted accusations that he had “plotted to abduct Joel Mutabazi”, a terror suspect that was tried and sentenced in Kigali.

The accusation, just like all the others, was a demonstrable falsehood.

Read: More misery for Rwandans dumped from Uganda, including one that lost her baby

Mutabazi was handed to Kigali through a bilateral framework of cooperation between regional police forces. “We have Lt. Joel Mutabazi in custody following his arrest and hand-over by Uganda Police. This was done in keeping with ongoing collaboration between Rwanda and Uganda police to fight and prevent transnational crimes through Interpol and the Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization Framework,” said a statement by the Rwanda Police.

In fact Uganda Police wasn’t the only one to hand over a wanted fugitive to his country of origin. The Rwandan police force reciprocated, as shown by the delivery of Shanita Namuyimba aka Bad Black to her country’s authorities, who wanted her to answer for crimes in Kampala.

“The continued allegations that Rutagungira ‘abducted Mutabazi’ are mere RNC propaganda, aided by CMI-sponsored mouthpiece media in an ongoing campaign to tarnish Rwanda,” said an analyst.

The case of Augustin Rutayisire who currently is in Luzira Prison of Kampala is particularly alarming. Rutayisire’s terrible misfortunes began together with those of his friend Emmanuel Rwamucyo when one Mukama Moses Kandiho, the brother of CMI chief Brig. Gen. Abel Kandiho arrested them in Mbarara last year in May.

Mukama Kandiho, a GISO (Government Internal Security Officer) who has terrorized many people in the Mbarara area, together with Maj. Mushambo the UPDF Second Division Counterintelligence Officer abducted the two Rwandan nationals and drove them to the military barracks to subject them to torture. That was after taking Ushs 140 million that belonged to Rwamucyo, according to the latter’s family members.

After a couple of weeks of severe beatings and psychological abuse in Mbarara, the two were then driven to CMI headquarters, Mbuya Military Barracks.

A year after the two friends were abducted, and currently detained at Luzira prison, the wife of Rutayisire Betty Mutamba disclosed her husband had almost died when she ate food in which someone had put bottle fragments. He was lucky that they took him to hospital in time and removed the fragments from his intestines.

Last month however, Rutayisire’s attorney said he was suffering torture in prison including constant beatings, sleeping on a bare floor, and suffering a health breakdown. “The incredible thing is that Ugandan courts already ordered that people like Rutayisire, Rutagungira and others be released since they were unlawfully jailed, and since the Ugandan state couldn’t bring any charges against them,” a family member of Rwamucyo’s said.

Read: Rwandan bus violently targeted in Uganda

Rutagungira’s lawyers filed a motion in High Court on 13 May 2019, to get him released from Makindye Court Martial immediately, citing the illegality of trying a civilian in a military court. As usual the military authorities just ignored the court’s ruling, which was in favor of the innocent Rwandan.

Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde, while still minister of security one time drove over to Makindye Barracks where Rene is detained, and proceeded to personally kick, slap and spit at the Rwandan. That is according to Rutagungira’s lawyer, Aaron Kizza. Tumukunde was trying to torture him into confessing the concocted charges against him, such as “working with Kayihura”.

Businessman Darius Kayobera’s case could be a stand-in for all the cases of the Rwandans kidnapped by CMI who end up in the agency’s dungeons or “safe houses”. Kayobera who was abducted with his wife was someone they knew had money, according to Jean Claude Mucyo, their employee with whom they were kidnapped, earlier this year.

The CMI agents surrounded them at midnight as they left their business premises where they ran beauty salons and spas on Musajjalumba Road in Rubaga, Kampala.

“The CMI goons just surrounded us and forced us into their vehicles; they then searched our bags and pockets for money. They forced us to hand over our phones and to tell them the pin numbers of the mobile money accounts,” Mucyo told the media. “Ugandan security guys are just robbers!” he continued, narrating how the fellows then effected transactions with accomplices to take cash from the mobile money accounts.

He described the torture and torment that ensued when the three were delivered to Mbuya. The Kayoberas have three small children, 8, 6 and 4 at home, but despite pleas to at least let the mother go, the CMI agents callously bundled everyone off to the torture chambers.

“This is the kind of lawless regime that Rwandans have to contend with,” remarked an analyst when he read of the Kayobera case.

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