By Jackson Mutabazi
Today the Ugandan military court has released seven Rwandans, amongst them long-detained people like Rene Rutagungira, Claude Iyakaremye, Ernest Rwamucyo and his friend Augustine Rutayisire. The General Court Martial sitting at Makindye in the Ugandan capital set the Rwandans free this morning.
The full details of the ruling are yet to come out.
It will be remembered that Ugandan military authorities abducted these Rwandans from different places, and took them away to dungeons where they were subjected to different kinds of torture. The charges against them kept changing. Rutagungira who was abducted in August 2017 by agents of CMI in the Kampala neighborhood of Bakuli was first accused of “espionage”. Then it changed to “kidnapping of Rwandan refugees”.
The same happened with Rwamucyo and Rutayisire in Mbarara in May 2018. The same happened to many others. The arrests were never arrests but abductions. Due process was never part of the equation. The victims, and their lawyers, have always maintained their innocence. They suffered because the Ugandan regime is in bed with groups, like Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC, to destabilize Rwanda. In this situation any Rwandan can be picked, out of the blue, and taken away.
Rutagungira was only a businessman and knew nothing about “spying”, his wife said. All the others too only did their businesses. The surprising thing was that they were even tried in military court. As civilians the Ugandan constitution is clear, a military court martial has no competence to try them. Beyond that, their lawyers Eron Kiiza, Anthony Odur, Gawaya Tegulle and others have strenuously maintained the charges against them were bogus.
“There was no evidence, not a single bit, against our clients,” Kiiza stressed. “It was just illegal detention from the word go, and to compound it they even tortured these innocent people and abused their rights with the illegal detentions and the military trials,” Kiiza added.
However though the released men and their families can heave a sigh of relief, and rejoice, hundreds more Rwandans still languish in illegal detention in Ugandan prisons, dungeons and so-called safe houses.
With the release of the seven, the public should not forget that Ugandan authorities for a long time denied they were illegally detaining Rwandans, a Kigali analyst remarked.
“The problem is far worse!” he added.