By Alex Muhumuza
In a scenario that has become all too familiar by now, four Rwandan nationals have in the past three days been dumped out of Ugandan places of detention.
The first, Hakorimana Venat Musoni, was abducted and tortured by Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, and was released, but after several months of illegal incarceration. He only got out because he was one of the lucky few that could find the money to bribe corrupt agents to release him.
Musoni disclosed that he has been under CMI detention since 11 July last year. Operatives of the agency arrested him on that date in Kampala where he was on a business trip.
CMI, together with ISO by now have become like terrorist organizations for Rwandan nationals of all stripes in Uganda: old men and women, middle-aged fathers, children going to Uganda to visit parents, mothers with babies and so on. CMI abducted Musoni and accused him of being “a Rwandan spy”.
CMI’s modus operandi by now is familiar to audiences of Rwandan media. Operatives of the notorious agency simply surround a Rwandan, force him to get into a vehicle with dark-tinted glasses, and drive off with him. Inside the car, they slap a heavy hood over the victim’s head while handcuffing him or her. The destination is usually to CMI headquarters at Mbuya Military Barracks, or any one of the hundreds of “safe houses” – un-gazetted places of detention – all over the country.
Musoni says that at the time of his abduction, he had a passport with valid entry stamps. The businessman also had US$11,700, and 4000 Euros. The CMI men wasted no time pocketing it. Musoni never got his money back, he says. He narrates that finally, on 24 this month, with the help of another detainee, he was able to pay a bribe of one million (Ugandan) shillings, and was released.
He says he is completely innocent of anything, which is borne out by the fact he never was charged in court with the alleged espionage. CMI agents badly tortured him, trying to force him to confess that he was “a Rwandan soldier”, or spy. That is something he has never been, he says.
Meanwhile on Friday, 26 April 19, Ugandan authorities dumped three Rwandans at the Gatuna Border post.
The three had been illegally imprisoned in Kabale and Mbarara detention centers. One of them, Muhawenimana Ezekiel, 36, was arrested on 23 July last year while in Uganda where he was for the burial of an aunt. His arrest for “illegal entry” was the same as that of hundreds of other Rwandans that, as news reports have detailed many times, have fallen victim to the hostile stance against Rwanda that Kampala has adopted over the past years.
Muhawenimana says that he was in Ndorwa Government Prison in Kabale where he suffered mistreatment that included backbreaking forced labor of hours of making bricks and working on building sites.
The Museveni regime continues to subject Rwandans to such harassment, arresting or abducting Rwandan nationals travelling there by the hundreds. Very many are taken even when their travel documents are perfectly in order. Uganda arrests multitudes of Rwandans even when East African Common Market laws clearly say states should not do that to citizens of fellow member states, nor impede their movements in any way.
Dumped together with Muhawenimana were two women, Dusabimana Esperance, 35, and Mukeshimana Florida, a grandmother of 55. The Ugandan security agencies arrested Dusabimana even when it was clear she was an expectant mother, in July 2018. She gave birth in Ndorwa Prison. At the time they arrested her, she too was in Uganda to visit relatives.
Mukeshimana on her part was arrested the same day, 25 July 2018, as she was coming back home from Uganda. The Ugandan authorities decided to incarcerate the 55-year-old woman. That was in Mbarara Prison. She has disclosed that there are over 200 wrongly imprisoned Rwandans in that prison.
She said they are made to work all day and suffer very much.
Beatings and much inhuman abuse of Rwandan nationals are the order of the day in Ugandan prisons. Survivors of such prisons that we have been interviewing for the past several months describe horrendous torture that includes hard labor enforced by kibooko (whips), while being starved.
Muhawenimana said there are well over a hundred Rwandans languishing in Kabale Prison, suffering similar conditions.