Rwandan and Ugandan security operatives are now competing to kill each other’s citizens.
Killing and torturing each other’s innocent citizens has replaced peace and brotherhood between Uganda and Rwanda.
Security operatives from both sides are consumed with violence that has resulted in death of more than a dozen Rwandans and Ugandans and torture of hundreds of others.
According to Rwandan leaders, Ugandan security forces have gone on rampage arresting and torturing whichever Rwandan that crosses their way before deporting them. But Ugandan officials also claim that Rwandan security forces started the ruthless killings of innocent Ugandans that has resulted in the death of more than half a dozen Ugandans so far. Most Ugandans have been killed in separate incidents after sneaking across the border to Rwanda to do business there.
The spilling of human blood of each other’s nationals has become the norm ever since peace talks between the two neighbouring countries collapsed. But these innocent people from both countries that have endured this suffering have no idea why they are targeted.
On April 05 this year, 24-year-old Jennifer Byukusenge, a young Rwandan final year student at Mount Kenya University in Rwanda, was abducted by Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), while visiting her mother in from Buziga a neighbourhood of Ugandan Capital City Kampala.
She was reportedly blindfolded and dumped in a toilet of an unknown house for two before she was driven to Mbuya Military Barracks headquarters and tortured as security operatives interrogated her to reveal her mission in Kampala.
After a month on May 5 she was reportedly dumped at Kagitumba border by Ugandan authorities alongside 17 other Rwandans who were also accused of espionage.
“They could beat me up asking me names of soldiers and police officers saying that we know each other,” Byukusenge narrated.
After she was deported Uganda media published reports that she had been “‘deployed to assassinate” former Deputy Inspector General of Police in Uganda Maj Gen Sabiiti Muzeyi.
Her mother Mariam Mukamusoni says security operatives came with her daughter handcuffed two days later and searched their house then confiscated Jennifer’s travel documents and left.
Then on September 2 in another act of harassment and persecution of Rwandans, or any Ugandan of Rwandan origin in Uganda, security operatives attached to the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence abducted Dr. Lawrence Muganga, the vice chancellor of Victoria University in Uganda.
Dr. Muganga was dragged from his office at the university in Kampala in the presence of fellow staff and students after the operatives overpower his police guards. The don was forced into a waiting van and sped off.
Dr. Muganga was accused of illegal stay in Uganda even though he owns a Ugandan citizenship identity card. But after social media criticism he was released a few days later.
A day before Dr Muganga was arrested, Ugandan authorities dumped six Rwandan nationals at the Kagitumba border post in Nyagatare district. The deportees had been detained at Mbarara police station for one month.
Dr Muganga, Byekusenge and others may have been lucky to return alive. However, some have died. For instance, according to Rwandan media, Paul Bangirana, 47, was murdered and his lifeless body dumped in the Bugarama Parish of Buhara Sub-County, in Kabale District. Eyewitnesses say some men abducted and dragged the Rwandan to an unknown location, screaming and shouting. The men returned hours later with his dead body, and dumped it near the border. Bangirana is the fourth Rwandan to be killed in Uganda in a space of just two months.
Theoneste Dusabimana, 52, was also unlucky. He was killed on August 30 in the Kibumba Parish of Karujanga Sub County in Uganda’s Kabale district. The assailants tied him and stabbed him to death and was found lying in a pool of blood.
Another victim was Bahati Ntwali who on August 28 was strangled to death and burnt by assailants that left him in his home in Kampala. Ntwali had been living in Uganda for more than four years, working as a mechanic in Kampala. His sister said that on August 28 Ntwali went home with two friends, whose identities were not revealed.
Mr Bazambanza Munyemana, 21, another Rwandan from Burera District and had been living and working in Butandi, in Kabale District in Uganda for more than four years, was tied him on a log, severely beaten and set on fire. His body was retrieved on June 06 at the Uganda-Rwanda border.
In February 2021, according to Rwandan media, a 60-year old Ugandan national of Rwandan descent, identified as Lawrence Sebusande, a resident of Isingiro District in southwestern Uganda was attacked by three men who shot him dead. He was left lying in a pool of blood while his wife Juliana Mbabazi was brutally beaten into a coma.
Meanwhile, in March Rwandan national Emmanuel Ndungutse, 22, was allegedly assaulted by Uganda People’s Defense Force soldiers and dumped at the Rwandan border. The Ugandan soldiers arrested him in Kabale District.
Ndungutse was left with broken ribs, injured back, arm, and legs. The uniformed men tortured him, beating him with wire cables because he failed to pay them a bribe of 200,000 (Ugandan) shillings to secure his release. Ndungutse was motionless. The soldiers bundled him onto a truck dumped him at the border. Rwandan authorities at the border picked Ndungutse and immediately took him for emergency medical care at Bungwe Health Center in critical condition.
Another Rwandan, David Rukundo, was allegedly assaulted by UPDF while transiting through Uganda from Kenya on his way back to Rwanda. He was allegedly detained and brutally beaten after failing to bribe his freedom. He was later handed over to Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence at Mbuya Military Barracks in Kampala.
It is estimated that close to 200 Rwandans have recently been arrested on charges of “illegal entry”, “illegal stay” in Uganda, or, “spying for the Rwandan government” by CMI and tortured.
On August 30 Uganda dumped 32 Rwandan nationals at the Kagitumba Border Post. The victims included 24 males, five females and three young children. They had all been detained at the Kyamugorani Prison in Mbarara. They were first detained at Sheema Isolation Center for a one month from where they were transferred to Kyamugorani Prison.
According to their accounts, they were arbitrarily arrested between May 5 and July 7 this year. Among them, eight were arrested while on their way heading to Rwanda on June 5.
A few days earlier a group of 13 others had also been deported. On August 6, some 23 Rwandans were deported from Uganda on allegations of illegal stay.
Then in late July another eleven Rwandans were deported through Kagitumba One Stop Border Post in Nyagatare District after being detained for some time.
In Feb 2021, Ugandan authorities at Kagitumba Border Post dumped seven Rwandan nationals that included four men, two women and a baby.
They are Furaha Diane Nzamukosha, abducted in Kampala on July 30, 2020; Celestin Kalisa, kidnapped in Mbarara on October 12, 2020; Augustin Ndagijimana, Fidel Nzayisenga and his wife Angelique Uwayisaba together their one-year-old baby Esteri Kirabo, picked in Kisoro on October 28, 2020; and Kado Semahoro, too abducted in Mbarara, in November, 2020. They were accused of espionage.
In a bid to get rid of all Rwandans, Ugandan security operatives are also beginning to turn against each other. In one case Lt. Phillip Ankunda, a UPDF pilot attached to Special Forces Command was arrested in May last year on accusations of spying for Rwanda. He was badly tortured in Makindye Barracks.
Fortunately, he was lucky to record himself in custody and sneak out his audio to the media.
Ankunda was together with six fellow junior officers and pilots that include 2nd Lt. Alex Kasamula, an officer of the UPDF regular forces, ASP Frank Sabiiti a police officer, Pte. Samuel Ndwaine, Pte. Moses Asiimwe Makobore, and Pte. Godfrey Mugabi – the last three reported to be attached to the Airforce Wing at Nakasongola as students of flight engineering and aircraft maintenance.
They were arrested from various places in Kampala on claims that “they had shared sensitive information with agents of Rwanda with intent to prejudice security.”
But Rwandan security is also killing and maiming Ugandans. On August 23 this year one Justus “Kadogo” Kabagambe was killed in confrontation with a Rwandan security patrol in the Kibuye Sector of Burera, several kilometers inside Rwandan territory.
Kabagambe in company of other colleagues who escape unhurt were transporting merchandise to Rwanda. They were accused of smuggling crude waragi and cosmetics into Rwanda.
Rwandan media claims Kabagambe was killed in self-defense after his group attempted to attack Rwandan security operatives with machetes.
Ugandan media reported that the Rwandan mayor who handed over the body of Kabagambe said, “Ugandans will continue to be killed in Rwanda.”
But later Marie-Chantal Uwanyirigira, the mayor of Burera District, denied the statements attributed to her. “I never said anything else other than this, and I am very surprised by what the Ugandan websites have written. That is a complete lie that they just fabricated,” she said.
Kabagambe is the ninth Ugandan to be killed in Rwanda by security operatives there ever since President Paul Kagame closed the Uganda-Rwanda border.
How it started
Rwandan authorities say they were prompted to close their border with Uganda after President Yoweri Museveni’s government ignored calls to stop sponsoring Rwandan dissidents who want to remove Kagame from power violently.
Kampala counter-accuses Rwanda of infiltration and espionage, cyber hacking using Israeli military grade spy ware Pegasus against top government officials including security chiefs.
President Kagame claims he has proof that the Uganda government has provided safe heaven and resources to the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which are both classified as terrorist organizations by Rwanda.
RNC is Rwandan opposition group in exile, established in the United States on 12 December 2010 with an aim of violently overthrowing President Kagame’s government. Prominent founders included Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa, Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, Gerald Gahima, and Patrick Karegeya.
Whereas the FDLR is a Hutu extremist force formed by remnants of the former Habyarimana government, and is largely based in the jungles of eastern DRC.
Uganda denied the accusations that it was supporting Rwandan dissidents. President Museveni though admitted to meeting with a member of the RNC but said he told them Uganda cannot support their cause.
But the Rwandan government argues that it has evidence indicating that in March 2019, Charlotte Mukankusi, the “commissioner for diplomacy” of Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC was issued a Ugandan diplomatic passport.
More than a decade ago, Ignace Murwanashyaka formerly president of FDLR during its operations in eastern DRC in 2008 and 2009 also travelled across the world on a Ugandan passport, which he acquired around 2005. Murwanashyaka died while on trial for war crimes in Germany.
Kigali also wanted Museveni to direct his security to stop harassing Rwandan citizens that visit Uganda and handover Rwandan dissident Tribert Ayabatwa Rujugiro, a close associate of Gen Salim Saleh, a brother to President Museveni.
A new report on East Africa’s war against extremism, crime, corruption and related illicit trade has pinned Rwandan dissident Rujugiro on illicit trade and terrorism financing.
With the funding of Rujugiro, RNC co-founded an outfit called P5, which for the past couple of years maintained militia bases in eastern DR Congo. Through his Meridian Tobacco Company, Rujugiro in recent years opened a manufacturing plant in northern Uganda, which produces the Supermatch brand.
When Mr Museveni didn’t honour Rwanda’s requests on February 27 2019, Kigali administration closed its border with Uganda as a wake-up call.
In an attempt to revive warm relations between the two countries and also re-open the border between them Angola’s President Joao Lourenço and his counterpart from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, facilitated four summits in 2019 and early 2020 but these did not resolve the conflict.
In February 2020, the fourth summit was held in Gatuna, Rwanda’s side of the closed border. The venue was chosen with the hope that based on progress from previous meetings, an agreement would be reached to reopen the border; and thereafter, Museveni and Kagame would walk to the border and symbolically reopen it.
However, this strategy failed because Kagame insisted that Uganda must first verify the claim of “actions from its territory by forces hostile to the government of Rwanda.”
As a result countless numbers of Rwandans, either traveling to Uganda or already living there, fell victim to lawless behavior including abductions, illegal detentions, torture, even death for the most unfortunate, at the hands of Ugandan security forces.
Likewise Ugandans that cross the border into Rwanda are at times killed.
At the beginning of March 2019, Kigali issued a strong advisory to its nationals against crossing to Uganda.
As a result of closing the border, Uganda lost a big market for its export market in Rwanda. In 2019, Uganda exported goods worth $194m to Rwanda and the value of exports diminished to $5m in 2020, a year after the border was closed, according to statistics from Bank of Uganda. Rwanda exported goods worth $16m in 2019 and $7m in 2020.
Peace between these former allies remains a faraway cry. President Museveni and his childhood friend-turned-foe President Kagame have exchanged threats laced with loaded cultural messaging in the recent past.
President Museveni has warned a “country in the region” against meddling in Uganda’s internal affairs.
“There is a country in the region which has been sending agents to come meddle in our politics. But we have been counteracting them,” said Museveni.
Local media claims Ugandan authorities arrested Rwandan operatives on the eve of elections planning to disrupt the elections. Museveni made the customary blame again in his victory speech. He did not, however, name this country.
On his part President Paul Kagame countered; “Yes (war will happen), if you cross the border. You can do whatever you want on your territory, like arresting people.”
“For me, I will roof my house so that I do not get rained on. I will put strong doors so that you cannot intrude and take my property. If you force your way in, I will force you out,” warns the Rwandan leader.
Mr Kagame and Mr Museveni were allies in the 1980s when they fought alongside each other to overthrow dictatorial regimes.
It appears Kigali and Kampala have for now suspended efforts to make peace. Rwanda has of late been reviving relations with neighbours; DRC, Burundi, Tanzania, other central African and south African countries to open new trade routes and economic partnerships. Rwanda has also repaired relations former colonial master, France.
Whereas Uganda has embarked on construction of roads directly to Burundi and DRC to boost its markets to compensate for the lost Rwanda market.
But both Kagame and Museveni are aware that their countries are landlocked and ultimately need each because opening up longer economic routes is costly yet their economies have overtime become weaker especially after covid 19 obliterated them.
Secondly, the two neighbours may not avoid working together if they are to sufficiently tap into the Burundi and DRC markets.
The tension between Rwanda and Uganda has not only stagnated the progress of the East African Community but has also contributed to the rise in xenophobic rhetoric against members of the Banyarwanda community in Uganda.