Home Main Stories Why won’t Uganda release Rutagungira and all other Rwandans in illegal detention?

Why won’t Uganda release Rutagungira and all other Rwandans in illegal detention?

By Alex Muhumuza

Rene Rutagungira (Circled).

When Ugandan Military Intelligence, CMI, recently released 35 Rwandan nationals – sending them to different police stations all over Uganda according to reports – it put to rest once and for all any doubts that the organ has Rwandans illegally in its custody.

However the families of those not released must be dismayed; very anxiously asking why it is their particular family members that CMI decided to retain in their appalling custody.

Eron Kiiza and Tony Odur, the lawyers of over a hundred Rwandans unlawfully detained by Ugandan security organs, specifically named Rene Rutagungira, Iyakaremye Claude, Emmanuel Rwamucyo and Augustin Rutayisire as people whose rights have been even more egregiously abused than most.

Read: Rutagungira, other Rwandans in Ugandan detention aren’t only prisoners; they are hostages as well

Rutagungira, a Rwandan businessman in Kampala was abducted by CMI in August 2017 during an evening out with friends.

They brought charges against him that kept changing: “espionage”, “running a spy ring”, “abduction of Rwandan refugees.” They dumped him in Makindye Military detention and tortured him. Five months later when they “produced him in court”, it was before the military tribunal.

The man is a civilian, why were they detaining him in a military barracks and “trying” him in a military court.” His attorneys of the firm Kiiza and Mugisha Advocates have been challenging these acts. “The law is clear; a court martial has no competence to try a civilian, and he should never be in military detention to begin with!”

In addition to this extra-legal behavior by Ugandan Military authorities, they couldn’t produce a single piece of evidence to back their accusations against Rutagungira. They showed nothing even in the General Court Martial at Makindye when they took him there – looking so emaciated and unhealthy that there wasn’t a single doubt he had been subjected to severe torture.

Read: When Rwandan nationals were rounded up in Kisoro – the story of Tuyiringire

Something similar happened to Rwamucyo and Rutayisire. The two were abducted in Mbarara in May last year by a local security official – one Mukama Moses Kandiho who happens to be a younger brother to CMI Chief Brig. Gen. Abel Kandiho – together with Maj. Fred Mushambo the UPDF 2nd Division Counterintelligence Officer.

Family members of Rwamucyo say (Moses) Kandiho and Maj. Mushambo, after putting Rwamucyo and Rutayisire under arrest, they proceeded to rob Rwamucyo of Ushs 140 million, which he was about to deposit in a Mbarara bank branch. Mushambo and Kandiho first charged the two Rwandans of “attempted robbery”, as they drove them to Mbarara Military Barracks.

The two were severely tortured, before they were transferred to CMI Headquarters, Mbuya, then to Makindye. By then the charge against them had changed to “illegal weapons possession.” These and others were accusations they’ve never backed with evidence though the two men still languish in prison. Iyakaremye is nowhere to be seen.

Read: Uganda conducts affairs of state through propaganda publications

The question on their lawyers’ minds now is: what is the reason CMI or the other security agencies won’t release these people – even when the Constitutional Court of Uganda itself is clear they should not be anywhere near detention?

The game must be one of keeping them hostage, at the whims of Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC, a terrorist group that is the main proxy of Museveni’s in his plans (or dreams) of destabilizing Rwanda, observers comment.

CMI and other Ugandan intelligence organs have been abducting Rwandan nationals travelling to, or already resident in Uganda. Rwanda has said this many times. The Rwandan High Commission in Kampala has raised concerns for its country’s abducted citizens time and again, with notes verbale, which Ugandan authorities invariably ignored.

Kigali stressed that each and every Rwandan abducted, illegally jailed, held incommunicado in unknown locations, and tortured had committed no offense. It has long come to light they only are victims of the Museveni government’s policy of hostility against Rwanda and her peoples after the Ugandan ruler got into bed with Kayumba Nyamwasa and his RNC.

RNC agents, working together with Ugandan security operatives have been deciding, or pointing at which Rwandans to abduct; to be hauled away to the torture dungeons of CMI headquarters at Mbuya, or ISO, and in so-called safe houses that only are extended places of torture.

Read: Why releasing detainees and opening the border won’t resolve the Uganda-Rwanda crisis

Hundreds of Rwandans are in Ugandan prisons or torture dungeons and “safe houses” on concocted charges. Much of the time, especially for those accosted in buses in border areas like Kabale and Kisoro, the charge would be “illegal entry”. Another very common one has been “espionage”, followed by “illegal weapons possession.”

The biggest indication that all these people are guilty of no offense is that not a single one of them is ever afforded a court trial.

They suffer all kinds of torture – as readers of this website may have noticed, the most extreme being the ADEPR pastor whose manhood CMI torturers almost severed off – but never get to stand before a court so their side of the story is heard.

According to several testimonies to the media by those that have been lucky to leave CMI or ISO’s dungeons alive, much of the time the torturers spoke fluent Kinyarwanda. One Damascene who talked to Kigali media earlier this year – after making it alive out of a CMI safe house – was convinced his torturers had been RNC agents.

“They displayed keen interest in issues like: ‘how did Rwandan soldiers or policemen in Kigali look like? Did they appear happy? Well dressed? Well fed? Were they content with their pay; their circumstance?’” said Damascene.

Others that had suffered the same physical abuse in CMI custody added one of the reasons especially young Rwandans were abducted was to torture them into agreeing to join RNC as its recruits, to be transported to its training camps in eastern Congo.

The lawyers of the Rwandans continue to fight for the release of their clients.

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