By Alex Muhumuza
Uganda authorities in Kisoro, western Uganda, have adopted a new method of harassment and extortion of Rwandans travelling through the area.
According to four Rwandans deported and dumped at Cyanika border post yesterday, Tuesday 26 February 2019, Police at Nyakabande in the Kisoro area have set up a roadblock, “specifically to look for Rwandans”. The four – who have been languishing in Kisoro jails – are Kubwimana Theogene, 18, of Burera District; Ntakiyimana Peter, 32, of Gisagara District; Hakizimana Silvani, 30, of Gakenke District and Nzayisenga Jean de la Croix, 35, of Musanze District.
They all confirmed it as fact that there is a roadblock in Kisoro whose sole purpose is to comb out Rwandans from passenger vehicles, they recounted the suffering they have just endured in Uganda. Once the police identify an individual as a Rwandan – when one hands them a document such as a passport or travel pass – they immediately tear it up. They then charge the person, whose document they have just torn up, with “illegal entry”. After that they will take that Rwandan to the police station to lock him or her up.
The four most recent victims of Ugandan authorities say they too were jailed on charges of “illegal entry”. It is one of the favorite concocted accusations by Ugandan security agencies against nationals of Rwanda. Kubwimana, Ntakiyimana, Hakizimana and Nzayisenga all say that in jail they were heavily beaten up by the authorities.
Laws regarding free movement of persons in the region indicate there can be no illegal entry into any member country of the EAC Common Market by any citizen of another member country. Uganda is continuously arresting Rwandan citizens on “illegal entry” charges, which means the country is knowingly violating laws it willingly signed, according to numerous analysts interviewed on the issue.
The latest deportees report that they have been suffering beatings and other torture in detention. Kubwimana says he had to pay a bribe of 800,000 Ugandan shillings to be released. That was after eight days in Kisoro Prison. What he says is consistent with stories of numerous other Rwandans that have suffered the same misfortune.
According to the deportees, they are convinced a major purpose of the roadblock is to victimize as many Rwandans as possible so that later they will have to pay a bribe to get out of jail.
Failure to pay a bribe can mean years in a prison, which is “almost as bad as death”, according to deportees this news website has interviewed. It is what Kayihura Ponsiano, 53, who languished in Kisoro Prison for a year and was released earlier last month told Virunga Post.
Hakizimana Silvani, like Kubwimana, too had gone to visit a brother. He too paid 800,000 shillings, after a week in jail. The other two were similarly released.
They have said the torture of Rwandans in Ugandan detention centres is “unimaginable.” They say they have left at least up to 80 Banyarwanda in Kisoro’s jails, mainly those unable to pay the bribes.