In Uganda calling you a Rwandan spy without proof of the allegation is enough to get you to jail and invite torture upon you, at least those that have previously suffered this ordeal have confirmed.
And it matters less if you are a Munyarwanda but a Ugandan citizen. What matters is for one to allege.
Most Rwandans that have been deported from Uganda after serving time in detention facilities allege they were tortured by security operatives attached to the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.
The deportees say they are detained in Uganda for lengthy periods during which they are subjected to torture, mistreatment and denied consular visits. Some don’t access their family members or their children while others lose their valuables.
For about two decades, Rwandan authorities have accused the Ugandan government of harassing its citizens. Consequently, in 2019, Rwanda closed its border with Uganda after Kampala remained adamant to Kigali’s pleas.
The fallout culminated into quadripartite talks facilitated by Angola and the DR Congo. During the fourth meeting of the talks, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa said that Uganda would release 130 illegally arrested Rwandans while 310 Rwandan nationals would remain in Ugandan jails and charged in courts.
Subsequently, on June 8, Uganda released 79 Rwandans and a day later released another 53 who were deported through Cyanika border in Northern Rwanda.
In the morning of Tuesday, July 7, 2020, Uganda extradited 12 Rwandans via the Kagitumba One Stop Border Post.
The dozen, appearing exhausted and relieved at the same time, were delivered to Kagitumba border on the Rwandan side at 10:15am, aboard a Uganda Police bus, where they were handed over to Rwandan immigration authorities.
Uganda has also signed an extradition treaty with Rwanda, putting to rest the claim that Uganda was not keen on having Rwandan nationals on Ugandan territory accused of crime repatriated home to answer for their crimes.
Uganda continues to deport Rwandan nationals that were illegally detained. In the last two months Kampala authorities have twice extradited Rwandans.
In February 2021, Uganda extradited seven Rwandans via the Kagitumba One-Stop Border Post.
The group included six adults and one child arrived in Rwanda on Wednesday and was handed over to Rwandan immigration authorities.
The extradited Rwandans appeared tired, with one of them recognized as Ngoga Nzamukosha Diane unable to walk or talk. But her colleagues alleged she had been assaulted by the Ugandan Chieftaincy of Military intelligence (CMI) after she refused to admit she was spying for her government.
It was further alleged that her child also escaped from CMI and went missing until they were extradited.
Last week on March 12, five more Rwandans were deported from Uganda. They also claimed that they were tortured by Ugandan security agents while in detention after they were wrongfully arrested on suspicion of espionage at different times.
The five were dumped at Kagitumba One-Stop Border Post by Ugandan Immigration authorities on Friday, at around 10:20am, where they were received by the Rwandan side.
They included four men and one woman. They alleged that they were arrested by Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence between September 2020 and January 2021 on accusations of spying on behalf of Rwanda.
Upon arrival at Kagitumba, all deportees claimed to have been beaten and tortured by CMI staff, while some looked dishevelled and weak.
The deported individuals include Ishimwe Eliel, 19, and his sister Ishimwe Celine, 17, who claim to have been arrested on December 10, 2020 went to Uganda in February 2015 with their mother via Gatuna border, to find work.
They were arrested and detained by Ugandan police at Bukasa police post and arraigned in court on December 17, last year, where they were accused of entering Uganda illegally.
The duo remained in detention until January 25 when they were taken to the Uganda’s Ministry of Internal Affairs until Friday when they were deported. The teenagers have no family in Rwanda but they claim to have a grandfather who resides at Nyamuri Cell, Muyira Sector, Nyanza District in Southern Province.
Similarly, Bernatus Murindangabo, a businessman, says he was arrested by CMI on February 4, 2021 in Kansanga, a Kampala suburb, where he runs a business, and transferred to CMI headquarters in Mbuya, Kampala
Murindangabo was later transferred to the Military Police Barracks in Makindye, another suburb of Kampala, where he was accused of being a spy.
The father of two, had just returned from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and travelled to Uganda on February 13, 2020 via Kigali International Airport (KIA). He was arrested at his business premises.
Murindangabo operated a tours and travel company and restaurant in Kansanga. He was with Shadrack Mugisha Gahungu, 29, who was also arrested on the same day, February 4, 2021 in the same suburb of Kansanga, where he was working at Pyramid Bar and Restaurant, which belongs to Murindangabo, as a manager.
Shadrack Mugisha Gahungu claims to have lived in Uganda for a long time and had previously lived in Kenya until 2015 when he relocated to Uganda to engage in business. Previously he was dealing in clothes.
Like Murindangabo, he was transferred to CMI headquarters in Mbuya and later relocated to the Military Police Barracks in Makindye, Kampala, where he was accused of espionage. Mugisha has no family in Rwanda and left his wife and children behind.
Napoleon Rebero is the other person who was deported. He alleges that he was arrested on February 10 this year, in Kampala, where he was conducting business. The 47-year-old father of four was detained at CMI Mbuya headquarters on similar accusations of espionage.
He was living in Kampala since 2000. He was forced to leave behind his family in Uganda and his properties and businesses.
Relations between Rwanda and Uganda have been deteriorating since 2017, with the former particularly accusing the latter of arresting and harassing Rwandans who live or travel to Uganda.
Rwanda maintains that there are hundreds more of Rwandans who are still detained in Uganda without trial and are denied their legal right including visits while they are subjected to torture by security organs.
“The harassment and persecution of Rwandan nationals in Uganda continues to grow and the Government of Uganda seems to keep denying its role in these regrettable acts. For example, on 18th May 2020, two Rwandan women were handed over at the border with Uganda after being severely beaten by Ugandan Security Operatives while on their way back,” Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Dr. Vincent Biruta told the media last year.
In August last year, Dr Biruta accused Uganda soldiers of illegally crossing into Rwanda where they kidnap Rwandans and illegally ship them into Uganda and later demand for ransoms to release them.
He said Rwanda had formally complained to Uganda through diplomatic channels about the concerns.
“Members of the UPDF (Uganda Peoples Defence Forces) have on various occasions crossed the border and kidnapped or tried to kidnap Rwandans on our territory,” Dr Biruta said.
President Kagame has in the past said that reopening of the Rwanda-Uganda border would entirely depend on Uganda’s decision to stop harassing Rwandans and neutralizing support to hostile groups that wish to destabilize Rwanda.
However, Ugandan authorities say Rwandan deportees are mostly spies sent by Kigali administration. “Espionage and other malignant activities, which undermine the national security of Uganda have continued unabated. These activities are unacceptable. We have continued to apprehend individuals, including those with falsified documents that have been involved in these unlawful acts,” Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa has been quoted as saying.
In a show of good will though, apart from continuing to release illegally detained Rwandans, Uganda has deregistered Self-Worth initiative NGO, which organization was accused by Rwandan authorities of clandestinely facilitating activities of anti-Rwanda elements operating in Uganda.
The deregistration was done on March 12 and officially announced in the official gazette on March 16, 2020 and the following day, on 17th March 2020, the Government of Rwanda was officially informed.
Ugandan Foreign Affairs Ministry also informed the Rwandan government through a note verbale that the passport of Charlotte Mukankunsi, the Rwandan National Congress (RNC) Commissioner for Diplomacy had been cancelled.
Rwanda claims that Uganda is a safe haven for armed groups targeting the government of Rwanda, including Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and RUD-Urunana which engage in terror activities.
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