By Patience Kirabo
Uganda, which ranks second among African countries that host genocide fugitives, has maintained its stance on shielding the suspects even when other countries worldwide are arresting and extraditing top Rwandan suspects of high crimes. For reasons best known to Kampala, it has declined to act to hand over even one suspects – of the estimated 260 on Ugandan soil – to face justice for their crimes 26 years ago.
What are we to make of the fact that even France has arrested Kabuga, but Uganda provides safe heaven for terrorists that are also suspected mass murderers like “Gavana”, commander of RUD?, people ask.
The Ugandan regime instead preferred to work closely with genocide perpetrators, like the deceased Ignace Murwanashyaka, former president of the genocidal FDLR. At one time it was exposed that in fact he used to travel on a Ugandan passport on FDLR missions. “That Uganda could do things like these shows what a bad neighbor Kampala was determined to be, from a long time back,” commentators say.
The country’s history of supporting Rwandan fugitives evading the law dates way back to the early 2000s. Other than Murwanashyaka, Uganda has facilitated top genocidaires and FDLR commanders like Hyacinth Rafiki, and Maj. Wallace Nsengiyumva. All have enjoyed safe haven, and were issued passports to ease their mobility, while they go about their anti-Rwanda business, eluding justice for the crimes against humanity they are implicated in.
Murwanashyaka oftentimes traveled through Uganda to Germany and other countries. When in 2004 the UN put a travel ban on him, forbidding him from traveling back to Germany he was able to travel back there in 2006 with a newly issued Ugandan passport under false names. That was just one instance of Kampala acting to divert international justice on behalf of its genocidal allies.
As if to add insult to injury, in July 2019, when Uganda officials arrested genocide suspect Anastase Munyandekwe acting on an Interpol Red Notice Kampala authorities ensured the suspect was swiftly released and aided to travel back to Belgium, instead of handing him over to Rwanda.
As if to further prove Uganda’s stance, when Rwanda diplomatically reached out to it through a note verbale on 137 suspects residing in various parts of the country, Kampala only made a show of arresting three of them, including Augustin Rwiririza, Jean Baptiste Bizimungu, and Bizimana Bernard. However, these were later released. All of them remain in different parts of Uganda going about their lives, some engaged in lucrative businesses.
Even more astounding to observers is how Uganda’s State Minister of Regional Cooperation Philemon Mateke, is publically flaunts his credentials as a great ally of Rwanda’s genocidaires, reveling in his role as the focal point of the anti-Rwanda groups, such as with plans “to forge a united front” between the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and the FDLR.
Observing these things, commentators say, it is hardly surprising that Uganda has gone radio silent on the extradition of captain Nshimiye aka Gavana, who commanded the terror attack in Kinigi in October 2019 that killed 14 and maimed 18. He is still under the protection of Uganda’s security organs following withdrawal to Uganda.
Rwandan authorities have persistently urged countries still hosted genocide perpetrators to arrest, charge or extradite them to Rwanda to face justice. With Belgium recently arrested three genocidaires – Pierre Basabose, Christophe Ndangali, and Séraphin Twahirwa. France has apprehended Felicien Kabuga and launched an investigation into another major suspect, Aloys Ntiwiragabo for his crimes. Western, and European countries are showing significant support in Rwanda’s pursuit of justice.
But from a neighbor like Uganda? Genocide survivors are shocked that the murderers of their relatives, torturers and perpetrators of other unspeakable crimes only enjoy safe haven.
Uganda has not extradited a single genocide suspect since the establishment of the Genocide Fugitive Tracking Unit in 2008.
On the contrary, its authorities have shown far more willingness to deploy them as proxies in plots to sow instability in Rwanda.