By Alex Muhumuza
A group of actors in Kampala and beyond have taken to slandering the nine Rwandans recently released from illegal detention in Uganda.
These actors, made up of individuals, websites and Facebook accounts that have played the foremost role in a campaign of misinformation against Rwanda, have determinedly done their best to paint the released Rwandans as “criminals and killers”, or “kidnappers and spies for Rwanda”.
This is despite the fact these men – Rene Rutagungira, Claude Iyakaremye, Emmanuel Rwamucyo, Nelson Mugabo, Augustin Rutayisire, Etienne Nsanzabahizi, Bahati Mugenga, Charles Byaruhanga and Munyangabe – were held for lengthy periods, some for two years; some close to three years, with no court trial.
Others, when they were “tried” at all it was in military courts, in complete violation of their civilian rights. Their attorneys regularly briefed the Kampala media about their innocence. And in the long run their persecutors never mounted a case against them.
But their handing over to Rwanda has been like a trigger for the specialists of anti-Rwanda misinformation, to determinedly push afresh all the disproved falsehoods against them.
The day after they were released Seruga Titus, one of the most tireless slingers of mud wrote: “the Uganda Court Martial has released suspects involved in committing crimes against humanity by illegally deporting refugees, mass kidnapping and killing Ugandans of Rwandan origin.”
This and other smears were enthusiastically amplified by “Robert Patrick Fati Gakwerere” – a Facebook page mostly used to advance the interests of Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC. Before long they were joined by Gideon Rukundo Rugari (who happens to be an aspiring candidate for an MP seat in Uganda on the NRM ticket).
On his Facebook account Rugari wrote that, “the release of the ‘Rwandan criminals’ is just part and parcel of ‘state craft’” – his meaning being that the men were not innocent. He then claims, “I know what these people did and were continuing to plan to do in Uganda.”
Sulah Nuwamanya Wakabirigi, a renowned agent of RNC in Uganda – some time in 2018 he was engaged in a PR campaign for RNC chief financier Tribert Rujugiro’s tobacco factory in Arua – quickly pitched in with his own smears.
Was this a coordinated attack against the process that led to the release of the innocent Rwandan nationals?, informed observers began to ask.
The vitriol against the freeing of the innocent men makes it seem like the anti-Rwanda social media accounts and websites are attacking the Angola MoU itself.
The MoU among other things stipulates the release of arbitrarily detained prisoners against whom there is no case; or who have not undergone due process.
Full implementation of the MoU would mean complete dismantling of RNC networks in Uganda, a reader noted.
Those networks include the likes of Nuwamanya, Rugari (who in addition to his aspirations as the NRM candidate for Ndorwa West also is part of the RNC “Uganda Province Executive Committee” as “commissioner in charge of communications and media”), in addition to individuals like the Mbarara-based Pastor Deo Nyirigira, “coordinator of the Uganda Province”.
It also is a fact that RNC has been closely linked with Ugandan intelligence organs – mainly the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, CMI.
One may then wonder: is this why so many CMI/RNC agents seem to be fighting tooth and nail against any sign of normalization of relations?
The reader may remember the “Kikagati incident”.
That happened back in December 2017 when 46 RNC recruits were intercepted at the Uganda-Tanzania border by suspicious Uganda immigration officials. They had spotted that their papers weren’t authentic. They did not speak one Ugandan language, but carried Ugandan papers. When examined closely, the papers turned out to be forgeries. Shortly afterwards the men were arrested.
This incident has become infamous in that even President Museveni himself acknowledged he knew of this bus-full of RNC men.
The forty-six all were Rwandans (it turned out RNC recruited them in refugee camps in Uganda with the help of CMI). They confessed to that under interrogation. The men were taken into custody. Uganda Police Spokesperson (at the time) SSP Emilian Kayima disclosed that the men had been charged with terrorism. They had initially claimed they were going to Burundi on a bible fellowship, but then disclosed they were enroute to (now former) RNC training camps in Minembwe.
Facts like these, and many others show how closely intertwined RNC is with powerful actors in Uganda.
This also is quite significant in that CMI is way up there as “the first among equals” in Ugandan security organs, say security observers.
To many therefore, it was of little surprise that the attacks (against the release of the innocent Rwandans) by CMI-affiliated blogs or websites did not relent.
In the second week – after Ugandan Foreign Minister Kutesa handed the former detainees to the High Commissioner of Rwanda in Kampala before a media gathering – one Prossy Boonabana released a letter castigating the minister and “condemning this gesture.”
The letter with the heading, “Protest against withdrawal of criminal charges and release of 9 Rwandan suspects”, was dumbfounding when everything is considered.
Who is Prossy Boonabana? many asked.
The woman runs some organization in Kampala called “Self-worth initiative”.
“SWI” describes itself as an “independent, none-religious, none-political and none-governmental with pro-poor development activities”, among other things. Elsewhere it describes itself as driven “to expand the role and influence of vulnerable poor people, including refugees…”
It is none of these things. The indication of its real purpose is in the individuals that run it – namely Prossy Boonabana and Sulah Nuwamanya Wakabirigi. Nuwamanya also is an RNC agent (as mentioned earlier), as is Boonabana.
According to sources with inside information such as blogger Maxon Lukyamuzi, formation of the “SWI NGO” was a trick. It was “to sanitize RNC so that they could carry out their activities under the guise of “humanitarian operations”.
But, continued the blogger: “it is important to know that all these initiatives are led by Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, which handles all RNC operations within and outside Uganda.”
This raises the question: has Boonabana’s “letter” (more of a diatribe against innocent Rwandans, and Rwanda itself) to Kutesa been written with the blessing of her “CMI bosses”?
Sober-minded people were taken aback by the tone of the “letter”. Assuming the mantel of prosecutor, jury, and judge, if not persecutor, Boonabana writes: “We have learnt with dismay that these individuals, proven by Uganda security agencies to be Rwandan spies conducting their illegal activities on Ugandan soil have been released.”
Here one pauses to ask: this is the “NGO” that claims it is “none-political”?
It goes on to launch an astonishing litany of other easy-to-see-through falsehoods.
Nevertheless a bunch of Kampala websites and bloggers disseminated the letter as if spreading the Gospel.
Softpower, an organ run by Sarah Kagingo, a lady who like Boonabana specializes in mind-bending tall tales against Rwanda, published the letter verbatim. Daily Monitor quoted extensively from it. As did Chimpreports, Spyreports, and others.
What did this assault on the truth mean?
Those behind it know best.