The Rwandan government has paraded three of its own it claims had been ‘subjected to intense torture in Ugandan prisons by Uganda’s military intelligence authorities’.
They returned to Kigali this week.
According to state owned New Times publications Appolinaire Munyakazi and Eric Nsengimana left their home village in Rutsiro District in Western Province and headed to Uganda seeking green pastures last year
The two had been invited by a friend to go and look for alternative sources of income in Uganda. On their trip to Uganda, through Cyanika border, they were stopped in Kisoro, southwestern Uganda.
“We boarded a bus thinking we were going to Uganda only to be stopped at a police station in Kisoro. They ordered every Rwandan to get out and the rest continued. They asked us our travel documents and we presented them. Instead of giving them back to us, we were told that we are under arrest,” Nsengimana, narrated.
New Times’ propaganda follows allegations by Richard Sezibera, Rwanda’s foreign minister, accusing Uganda of mistreating Rwandans in Uganda and supporting rebel groups opposed to President Paul Kagame’s government.
“Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) work from Uganda with support of some authorities there (Uganda). This is another serious case and we have raised it with them,” Sezibera told a news conference this week after a travel ban was duly issued last week.
The RNC is a rebel group led by some South Africa-based Kayumba Nyamwasa. Its founders say it is a political party.
Uganda has since denied the accusations through a statement released by the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
‘‘It is false that Uganda hosts any elements fighting Rwanda. Uganda does not and cannot allow anyone to operate from its territory that threatens a neighbour as alleged,” the statement signed by Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa reads.
“It is not true that Uganda arrests, tortures and harasses Rwandans. Rwandans are welcome to visit Uganda. However Uganda expects that all visitors to the country including Rwandans remain law abiding because those who act contrary to the law, are dealt with in accordance with the law. It is unfortunate that the movement of goods and people across our common border with Rwanda, has been restricted. Uganda is committed to addressing any trade related issues, because we are convinced that doing so strengthens our regional integration.”
Munyakazi and Nsengimana, according to the New Times, together with a few other Rwandans who had been held at Kisoro police station, were the following day taken to court and the judge said they had entered the country illegally even after presenting their travel documents.
In court, the two men said, the judge demanded Ugandan Shillings 1.5 million to release them or else serve a prison sentence of one year and six months.
“Those who had money gave it out and those who didn’t, including the two of us, had no choice but to serve our sentence. The judge said he was trying to favour us and instead of serving 18 months we would rather serve 12 months,” Nsengimana said.
According to Munyakazi, they spent two weeks at Kisoro police station before being transferred to Mparo Prison in Kabale District.
“We would wake up every day at 6am and go to parade where they would count us and brief us where we were going. We would spend the whole day digging, others making bricks and others transporting heavy trees for construction,” Munyakazi told state officials, claiming that they were arrested on February 21, 2018 and released on March 4, 2019.
The third man, allegedly tortured in Uganda and also paraded by the Rwandan government is Jotham Rukundo, a Gasabo resident, who had gone to Kampala to attend a crusade at Pastor Robert Kayanja’s Miracle Centre Cathedral.
“I went to see a friend called Edison who is based in Uganda who we planned to attend a crusade together. As we were returning home together with his two other friends Edison proposed that we pass at Kololo station so that he could get a temporary paper as he had lost his ID,” he said.
Rukundo explained that as they waited for his friend to come out, a security guard came and started questioning them why they had stayed outside, but before they could continue explaining they were forced into a vehicle.
They were driven to another place where they were further questioned on how they entered Uganda.
“We were held in a room that was shaped like a corridor and they would coarce us into telling them what we had come to do or else serve more time in a secret cell. After about five days we were transferred to Kireka police station where we spent about 10 days,” he said.
Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda has since the standoff appealed for calm, saying Uganda was working to resolve the issue.