By Patience Kirabo
It is now one month shy of baby Joanna’s second birthday. The then one-month-old baby who was snatched from her mother Julienne Kayirere before her arbitrary arrest in Mubende District-Uganda in late 2018 is still nowhere to be seen as Uganda has kept her and her mother apart. This is despite her endless pleas, and the Rwanda Government’s tireless efforts to reunite the mother and her child.
Baby Joanna Manirakiza, born in October 2018 will be turning two very soon. It leaves her mother dejected, missing out on her child’s growth milestones, and stuck in limbo not knowing when and if she will ever be reunited with her. Uganda has forcibly separated a mother and her child and has refused to address her issue or reunite them both. “It is unconscionably cruel, something like this happening from so-called neighbors,” commented a neighbor to Kayirere.
According to Kayirere, her baby was taken away by the Mubende District Police Commander (DPC) on November 29, 2018, while being arrested. However, on her release, the authorities in Uganda refused to return her baby but rather re-arrested her after her own attempts to find her child were futile. Instead, after 11 months in illegal detention, she was forcefully deported and dumped at the border with Rwanda. Her plight and cries to be reunited with her baby have up until now failed.
Efforts by the government of Rwanda to help retrieve baby Joanna from Uganda through diplomatic channels have not ceased. Rwandan authorities have provided all the necessary details of Kayirere’s case to their counterparts, and followed up. Early this year in February, during talks to bring back normal relations between the two countries in Gatuna, Rwanda requested Uganda to allow the mother, Julienne Kayirere to be reunited with her child. And yet, Uganda chooses to keep the child and mother apart after all this while.
Like any parent, Kayirere cannot stop thinking and worrying about her child. “I keep wondering where she could be. Is she being fed? How is she being treated? Is she okay? And most frightening of all, is she alive?” wonders the mother immediately bursting into tears.
Kayirere has not only been physically tortured by Uganda security agents, she has endured the psychological torture of being separated from her child for years. It is only fair and required of Uganda to help Kayirere who is in constant agony to get her baby back.
“Uganda should do the right thing and trace the policeman, a DPC of Mubende, that took the woman’s baby away from her, and make him produce the child,” said a Kigali official that requested confidentiality. Why should the political hostilities of Kampala go to the extent of having a mother’s child snatched away?, he asked.