By Alex Muhumuza
Ugandan detainees in Rwanda that have been arrested for acts like smuggling; or for entry into Rwanda through illegal border crossings; or other offenses are given a right to speedy court trials. They are allowed consular visits upon request from the Uganda High Commission in Kigali. They are not held incommunicado.
Only this week, Tuesday 12, a dozen Ugandans detained at Nyagatare Police Station have been accorded the benefit of a consular visit when a Ugandan diplomat in Kigali, Juliet Namirimu Kiggundu the Foreign Service Officer, accessed and talked to them.
An investigation by this news website has focused on these twelve Ugandans. They have been accorded all rights after they fell afoul of the law in Rwanda.
These include individuals like Bosco Kabenzi, 35, who was arrested last month, 21 October in the Rwempasha Sector of Nyagatare. That was after he entered Rwanda through one of the porous border points with 15 kilograms of onions – a case of smuggling. “If he wanted to do things lawfully, he should have used an official crossing,” border officials said.
Kabenzi did not resist arrest, and was taken to the police station. He was produced in court for a first hearing in less than 48 hours as the law stipulates.
Silva Muhwezi, 32, too was apprehended last month, in the Tabagwe Sector. He was suspected of illegally entering Rwanda through an ungazetted border crossing. He too was locked up, and Prosecution is processing his case. The same happened to Moses Baryakasenga, 42 whom police apprehended as he tried to sneak into Rwanda through an illegal entry point in the Bugarama Cell of Rwempasha Sector.
There are others, like Fred Kamugisha who tried to illegally enter the country with cannabis. Or Emmanuel Niwamanya who was carrying 32 chickens on his bicycle, trying to cross with them through one of the many illegal routes – this one in the Kazaza Cell of Rwempasha.
The arrests of these, and all other Ugandans currently in detention for breaking the law are conducted with respect for the human rights of the suspects.
No security operatives, member of the intelligence services, or police abducts Ugandans – or any member of another nationality. No single Ugandan is subjected to physical abuse of any kind or subjected to hours of hard labor with beatings, or is deprived of food. This is a far cry from what happens to those Rwandans unfortunate enough to fall into the hands of Ugandan security agencies.
Hundreds upon hundreds of Rwandan nationals held in various places of detention; torture dungeons and the so-called safe houses by operatives of Uganda’s security agencies have suffered untold physical and psychological abuse. It is something that has been going on over the past two and a half years.
Damascene Muhawenimana, a Rwandan that in January this year was arrested – together with his mother – in Kampala described the torture he personally saw in a safe house attached to the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, CMI. “Some Rwandans had been beaten so badly with electrical wires and sticks and they had totally lost their minds!” said Muhawenimana.
He was in Kampala with his mother to look for his brother who had gone missing in the Ugandan capital.
The most notorious of the agencies that Kampala has unleashed on Rwandans, CMI, keeps dozens of Rwandans at its Mbuya Military Barracks alone. It keeps several others at its Kireka facility, and countless others in unknown safe houses. Together with agents of Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC, CMI operatives subject abducted Rwandans to hideous torture.
Following CMI is the Internal Security Organization, ISO. Border police, especially at Kisoro too has been very active in harassment of innocent Rwandans. “It is as if Museveni has declared open seasons upon Rwandan nationals,” remarked a Kampala source.
Unlike the case with Ugandans detained in Rwanda, the security authorities in Uganda abduct Rwandans but never bring charges against them. They will claim they are arresting this or that Rwandan for “illegal entry”, “espionage”, or “illegal weapons possession”. But they never produce a single one before the courts to be heard.
“It is obvious these CMI people, ISO and others just have another agenda, not enforcing the law,” said a former victim of criminal mistreatment by CMI abductors. He added: “all these accusations of ‘espionage’ or gun possession are just concocted!”
Rwandans that have been abducted in Kampala and tortured include Fidel Gatsinzi, an elderly man that in 2017 was apprehended by CMI operatives working together with Kayumba Rugema – an RNC official and nephew of its chief, Kayumba Nyamwasa – and one Mukombozi. They abducted Gatsinzi, took him to a dungeon and beat him so severely he ended up crippled.
Gatsinzi did not know why they were beating him, “except wild allegations of ‘spying’” he would narrate. The same happened to Moses Ishimwe Rutare. The latter, following two months in CMI’s Mbuya dungeons in December last year is psychologically traumatized.
Even when they were released, it is to be unceremoniously dumped, outside in the streets or at the border posts.
The more unlucky victims have lost their lives.
Nunu Johnson, 60, died in August this year – less than a year after CMI releases him from detention on unproven accusations that “he was spying for Rwanda.”
Some of the abducted Rwandans, like Rene Rutagungira, have been in detention for over two years; been tortured and never been given the chance to a lawful trial.
Others like Emmanuel Rwamucyo, Augustin Rutayisire have been tossed from one torture place to another.
That’s the Museveni system in a nutshell, said a Kampala commentator. “It’s a brutal regime that cares nothing about rule of law!”
In Kigali when the Ugandan diplomatic office writes notes verbale requesting to access any of its citizens in jail, they get a quick response from the Rwandan authorities. That’s what happened recently when the Foreign Service officer at the Ugandan Embassy was given access to the detainees in Nyagatare.
That also is what international norms, or protocols in dealings between nations demands.
In Kampala, the authorities routinely disregard the notes verbale of the Rwandan High Commission. Sources from the Rwandan Embassy in the Ugandan capital have repeatedly talked of the times they’ve written to Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting access to jailed Rwandans, or to those whose whereabouts are unknown.
The Ugandan ministry never deigns reply. Being seen to be disrespecting the law or international norms is of no concern to them, our source remarked.
The Rwandan High Commission wrote notes verbale requesting to see Rutagungira, Rwamucyo, Iyakaremye Claude, Rutayisire, and others. There was no response. No one has been able to access the Military barracks like Mbuya or Makinde at the miliatary court marshal were people like Rutagungira are detained.
The embassy asked to see Darius Kayobera and his wife Claudine who were abducted together this year at their business premises in Kampala, even as they pleaded that they had three little children home.
No response, as ever. Lawyers have protested and made media statements on behalf of these innocent Rwandans but nothing has come of it.
It is always the same ever since Museveni adopted his policy of anti-Rwanda hostility, getting in bed with groups like RNC with plans to destabilize Rwanda, remarked a political analyst.