By Melodie Mukansonera
According to highly-placed sources, as much as Uganda’s gesture this week to release up to 132 Rwandans from illegal detention in different prisons was to be lauded, the manner in which it was carried raises suspicions that many more Rwandans are in Ugandan detention than thought before. This is very possible, according to our source, because every time Ugandan security forces arrest Rwandans, “it’s done arbitrarily; they do not process them through the courts, and neither do they notify the Rwandan High Commission.”
Earlier this week on Tuesday, Ugandan authorities handed over a second group of Rwandans at Kagitumba Border Post whose detention, some for two years, had followed the same pattern of arbitrary arrest, illegal detention with no communication either to their families, or the Rwandan embassy. Many suffered torture and other abuses like hard labor in Ugandan prisons, where they were confined with no chance at defending themselves in court.
This second group of Rwandans consisted of 53 people (39 men and 14 women) had been detained in Kisoro, Kahihi, Mparo and Ndorwa prisons in the neighboring country. Their arrival followed that of the 79 that arrived before them, on Monday, and who had suffered the same conditions of illegal detention. Most times Ugandan authorities just dump the Rwandan victims of Uganda’s security agencies at the borders.
“In two days, Uganda sent 132 Rwandans but these people were not in the records, unlike hundreds of others that are still held illegally and incommunicado,” our source remarked. “This indeed is another good gesture by Uganda, but since they weren’t even on the lists we sent, it implies there are a lot more being Rwandans help in secrecy in Ugandan detention!” Our source, a highly placed official, disclosed Rwanda “will stand its ground and demand for the unconditional release of all her nationals illegally detained.”
Even as Rwandan authorities welcomes the released of the 132 they said it was troubling that Ugandan authorities by themselves admit they are holding on to 310 other Rwandans. More disturbing from the Rwandan perspective is that according to statements by Ugandan Foreign Minister Kutesa, the 310 Rwandans are being held on “capital offenses”.
“Leave the fact alone that this isn’t even plausible because there are a total of 149 prisoners on capital offenses in all Uganda’s prisons, but still if they have Rwandans on those casws why did Uganda not once officially notify Rwanda about any of its nationals they locked up?” Kampala is yet to give an answer to this question, according to Kigali.
In the last three years Kigali sent a total of 44 notes verbale to Kampala with inquiries about illegally detained citizens, held incommunicado, and very likely suffering torture. Just like other notes verbale with concerns about Uganda’s harboring of anti-Rwanda groups, and the details of their activities – with the collusion of Ugandan security organs – Kampala only kept ignoring them.
Most of the notes verbale, some of which this website has seen, involve many illegally arrested and incarcerated Rwandans, whose families in most cases desperately begged their government (Rwanda) to intercede on their behalf.
Upon arrival the latest release group of Rwandans were put in quarantine, to examine their health conditions, and additionally as precaution against Covid-19.