By Patience Kirabo
Ugandan authorities are still dumping Rwandan citizens at the border posts after subjecting them to inhuman conditions.
Erias Tuyiringire, 24, is the most recent victim to be dumped at Cyanika Border Post. His story is all too familiar by now: he was arbitrarily arrested, illegally detained, and tortured – in his case in Kisoro Prison. Tuyiringire was dumped on October 17 at the border, “with nothing at all except a badly aching back!”
The young man, who hails from Gataraga, Musanze District, left for Uganda through Cyanika on 18 February 2018 to do personal business. After three months and a half there, one day policemen approached him while at work in the morning. He says they immediately arrested him, without so much as an explanation.
“I thought I was the only one, and I wondered what I had done to deserve this,” he said. Tuyiringire narrates that upon reaching the main road he saw there were many other Rwandan nationals, “sitting by the roadside under the arrest of the same police men.”
There was a roundup of Rwandan citizens in the area. While there, they were never told why they were under arrest. “You will be informed at the police station,” the policemen said.
The detainees, 35 of them, were all packed onto a police vehicle and driven over to Kisoro Police Station where they were unceremoniously dumped into the jail.
“Because none of us had committed any crime, we assumed we would be sent back to our home country, Rwanda. But 15 days elapsed and we were still at Kisoro Police Station,” Tuyiringire narrated.
After a fortnight in the cramped, torturous conditions of Kisoro Police jail, Tuyiringire and his fellow Rwandans were one morning collected in a truck and driven off to Kisoro Prison. They were not charged and there was no court process. “We did not get a chance to defend ourselves!”
The young man says here was a woman with them, one Yvonne Uwimana who had two young children, and she too was dumped into the jail. When they drove them to Kisoro Prison they took her too, though she had no idea where her children were. The sadistic authorities told her that she will be in prison for three years.
Tuyiringire said that while in prison they were subjected to forced hard labor: breaking stones, lifting heavy logs, or digging huge hectares of land to plant it with maize as part of the daily ordeals.
Very many people that have been dumped by Ugandan authorities at the different border posts have reported suffering this very kind of thing – forced labor that prison authorities exploit, hiring out the Rwandan prisoners to rich Ugandan farmers to work on their plantations.
“Modern day slave labor in Uganda!” That’s what human rights groups have called it.
Tuyiringire said they suffered daily beatings in addition to the torture of hard labor with no rest. When one fell ill there was no medical care at all. Tuyiringire suffers from a broken back. “I have severe back pain episodes, and I feel useless. I can’t manage to do even simple chores,” he says.
When they decided to release him from prison, on Thursday 15 October 2019, Tuyiringire went back to the Kisoro Police Station to try to get back his belongings that included money (it was in shilling that he estimates to be worthy Frw 75,000), and travel documents.
He spent two days begging for his money and documents, but the policemen refused to return any of the items. They had stolen the money, he is certain.
Tuyiringire estimates there are 50 to 60 compatriots left in Kisoro Prison, incarcerated for only one reason: their nationality.
“I got out of there only by God’s grace,” he asserts. “People die in there, but the Ugandan authorities conceal it so people don’t get to know!” he added.