HomeMain StoriesUnderstanding the Museveni regime's obsession with refugees

Understanding the Museveni regime’s obsession with refugees

By Alain Mucyo


Uganda’s billboards on the Rwandan border, complete with the UNHCR logo, to encourage Rwandans on the border communities to cross over declare themselves refugees.

The Kampala regime propaganda machine in its tireless anti-Rwanda smears has concocted a new false narrative, that Rwandans “are fleeing their country en-masse”. The latest from Museveni-regime propagandist Sarah Kagingo’s blog, Softpower is an article with the headline; “Number of Rwandan nationals fleeing to Uganda surges”.

The article follows the inhuman treatment of close to 200 Rwandans in the border town of Kisoro. The pre-dawn dragnet of Monday, 25 was carried out by the Ugandan military, as well as police. They rounded up multitudes of Rwandans. Typical of Ugandan security agencies, they threw these people into garbage trucks and took them into detention though people were protesting that they were legal residents of Kisoro.

Detention was at the notorious Nyakabande Prison. Reliable sources inform us that the swoop – which did not spare mothers with their infant babies – was made with two objectives: first, to front these same people they had rounded up and claim they had fled their country, thus creating the false impression “Rwandans are keen to flee their country.” Secondly it was to make up refugee numbers.

Read: Uganda regime now “advertising” for refugees

Ugandan authorities, it will be remembered, have been in the news falsely inflating refugee numbers in the country, so as to claim millions of dollars from the UN, much of which the authorities have embezzled.

In its article, Softpower publishes a plethora of made-up and inconsistent allegations: in addition to implying that Rwandans are fleeing “because of hardships”, they then make the claim “Rwandans are fleeing from an impending attack on Rwanda by rebels in DR Congo”.

For all this they cite the same Rwandans who have been thrown in prison – a contradiction.

The Rwandan rebels they talk about are a group of terrorists that is facilitated by Kampala, as proxies in Museveni’s long-term desire to destabilize Rwanda. They include Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC in the so-called “P5” grouping that also includes FDLR, RUD Urunana and others.

Read: RUD-Urunana top commander killed in DRC

But there is another problem with the Ugandan propaganda spin concerning the people swept up in Kisoro. Whereas Softpower claims they are refugees fleeing Rwanda, Ugandan security have maintained the old narrative that these were “Rwanda spies” arrested on Ugandan territory.

Hundreds of Rwandans have been held on similar concocted allegations (none is ever tried in court to have their side heard, or for their persecutors to present evidence of their accusations) for the past three years. They have suffered hideous human rights abuses.

Reliable sources from Kisoro have intimated that the army and police in Kisoro tried to coerce the Rwandans to declare themselves “refugees that had fled Rwanda”.

This speaks to Uganda authorities’ obsession with refugees; more precisely the desire to inflate refugee numbers in Uganda using all kinds of false means. Now mass abductions have become one of the methods. For the Museveni regime, refugees are a commodity that they must find at all costs.

Read: Inquiry finds refugee numbers were exaggerated by 300,000 in Uganda

Refugees mean millions of dollars in donor money, which he then colludes with his Office of the Prime Minister to siphon.

Even the major donors have seen through this scam. Just in August this year, three countries: Germany, UK and Japan decided to suspend their relief support towards refugees in Uganda following persistent reports of embezzlement by Ugandan officials.

An audit carried out by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services revealed gross corruption and mismanagement of funds meant for the refugees through false-billing, overpayments or double payments for contracts perpetrated by Ugandan officials under the Office of the Prime Minister.

Refugees are such a lucrative “business” for the Museveni regime that they went as far as setting up billboards on the Rwandan border, complete with the UNHCR logo, to encourage Rwandans on the border communities to cross over declare themselves refugees.

In fact analysts think that’s one of the reasons Museveni keeps fomenting political instability in neighbouring countries: ensuring a continuous flow of refugees into Uganda. He has done this in DR Congo, in South Sudan and before this in Sudan.

Meanwhile, Softpower in the same article outrageously claims that “Rwanda has come under fire from neighbouring countries to kidnap Rwandan refugees”.

This is laughable because the opposite is true.

Uganda has been on the spot for their meddling in the affairs of neighbouring countries on many occasions. When for instance FDLR kingpins LaForge Fils Bazeye, its spokesperson, and Theophile Abega, its head of intelligence, were arrested at Bunagana on the Uganda-DRC border in December last year, they were coming from Kampala for a state-facilitated meeting. Uganda had facilitated a meeting between them and RNC officials, “to better coordinate the activities of RNC and FDLR”.

During their pre-trial and trial in court they disclosed they were in Kampala at the invitation of the Ugandan government. The meeting they were coming from, they told the court, was called by Uganda’s State Minister for Regional Cooperation, Philemon Mateke who in turn was acting at the express instructions of Museveni.

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