The genesis of hostility in Rwanda-Uganda relations

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The genesis of hostility in Rwanda-Uganda relations

Yanditswe Nov, 25 2019 08:48 AM
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The fallout in the bilateral relations between Rwanda and Uganda over the last 2 years and more have made their way into the media on several occasions, with Rwanda making it clear that the problems stem from 3 things, which are the torture of Rwandan Nationals at different times and through the use of various methods by Uganda's security organs, the support of armed groups which seek to destabilize the country, as well as decisions that negatively affect Rwanda's economy in various ways.

Uganda, on the other hand, accuses Rwanda of disrupting cross-border mobility by closing the Gatuna Border, which experts say is just a tactic to divert attention from the root cause of the problem. 

Towards the end of 2017, the first Rwandan national was dumped at Gatuna-Katuna border by Ugandan security, after enduring torture in Kampala following illegal incarceration, so much so he could not walk and was using a wheelchair.

His Testimony and a report filed by the United Nations experts attest to the fact Uganda has been supporting armed groups in the Eastern DRC, bent on destabilizing security in Rwanda. He also confirmed that hundreds of Rwandans were being detained in Uganda.

"I saw two dark young men, one called Mukombozi, though I do not know the other. One went by and said there was someone who wanted to say hi,” Fidèle Gatsinzi, a torture victim told reporters upon his arrival in Kigali, adding; “I turned slightly and saw who it was, but pretended I hadn't, then asked who it was. He then asked me if I knew Rugema Karim and I replied that I had not seen him for a long time, the last time being before he left. He told me that he wanted me to go to him, but my reply was that he should come because I was the older one. I was hoping I could cause some commotion and run off because both the Police Station and my Hotel were close. My plan was to make sure people knew how I was taken. Before I knew it, 2 soldiers had grabbed my arms and taken me to the man,”

Gatsinzi noted; “The moment he saw me, he was very aggressive, saying we were there to kill people. He said we shot Kayumba and that the bullet was still in his stomach, and that we shot Karegeya killing him, and he then accused me that I was there for Munyenyezi, Kayumba's Uncle."  

Some people attest that the 40 Individuals who were recently arrested at the Gikagati Border on their way to join armed groups in the Eastern DRC that seek to fight Rwanda are a clear indication of Uganda's role in the matter.

Testimonies also show that one of those armed groups work with Uganda's security organs when it comes to persecuting and torturing Rwandans who refused to join any of those elements, as told by Berchmans Uwingenzi, another torture victim and one of the people who was locked up in Uganda and would be taken out to work in potato fields.

"Someone called out to me saying, Pastor how are you? And I turned to see who had said that and I saw 3 young men, 2 of them with bags. As I approached they asked me when I had arrived at (Nyamwasa) Kayumba's place,” Uwingenzi said.

 He added, “I was surprised as to why they would call such a place Kayumba's and I pretended that I had not caught that, and I asked when they had arrived. They said they had just got there, saying they had come expecting to find an army, not people planting potatoes all day. I told them that was what I did and asked them how they had got there. They said they had been brought by two people that morning, who left them there, again referring to the location as Kayumba's place, and yet they were at the Kisoro Police Station."

Uwingenzi’s testimony has been repeated by numerous torture victims.


Moses Gakwerere, another survivor of Uganda’s safe house torture chambers also said; "The fact that someone can tell you that if you want to be a person, stand straight and rise from Hades, you should join them. I would ask them who are you? You have brought me to a Ugandan Barracks, are you Ugandans or Rwandans? Honestly what is happening there is child's play because it got to the point that foreigners told me, and this is what really hurt me, the fact that those helping him to do all those things to me were not really his people as he claimed, those Ugandans, and after he would leave they would say to me: We have no problem with you. The problem is with you who are killing each other.

“They would constantly ask me if I had served in the military which I denied and I would ask them where they had got such information. They would say my own people are the ones who bring them such information, saying we had once been soldiers and turning us over to be locked up." 

The victims of such torture are not just men, with women subjected to it as well and even seeing their babies taken from them.

Julienne Kayirere, a female torture survivor said, "Another Police Officer, a subordinate came, with 3 stripes on the shoulders. He whispered to the woman to tell me that my baby had died and she came and told me this. All the other Police Officers protested, saying my child is alive. I too protested and they went and forged documents, with the name Rebecca Birungi and attached false photos.”

Kayirere added, “The Police did all this without my knowledge and I asked them how they could do all that without informing a Rwandan National, or the Rwandan Government seeing that the Baby is not even theirs. They said when the Rwandan Government comes; they will give it its bones."

Such mistreatment and of Rwandans has affected all sectors, from the business community to recently members of faith-based organizations. 

Last September, Uganda deported 32 Rwandan nationals, most of whom were pastors of the pentecostal ADEPR Church.

The group arrived at the Kagitumba border post at about 9p.m with most of them having endured illegal arrest and detained for months.

The Testimonies indicate that recruiters for the armed groups are not just in Uganda, but here in Rwanda as well.

Uwingenzi, a torture survivor revealed that; "I then saw a man approach, who used to eat where we worked at Gisenyi, called Vincent. He was wearing army trucks and a white t-shirt. He greeted me because he knew me and liked to eat Chapattis at our restaurant. He begged me to join and I refused, after which he said, instead of coming back here to starve, I should work for them to recruit more soldiers, saying there were others in our group who were being sent back to do just that, and we would be paid between 65,000 and 130,000 Ugandan Shillings each." 

The arrest of the FDLR's Chief Intelligence Officer and its Spokesperson at the Bunagana Border as they returned from a meeting with Ugandan Officials is seen as irrefutable proof that Uganda is indeed working with Rwanda's enemies and has been exposed by such individuals after their arrest, be it Callixte Nsabimana who called himself Sankara, responsible for the attacks in Nyungwe; or the 25 arrested by DRC Forces and now facing Justice here in Rwanda, or even those arrested after the attacks that claimed lives at Kinigi in Northern Rwanda; all say Uganda was involved.

"I left Rwanda to do my Masters at Makerere University, and after studying there for 6 months, I met a rich man who told me I  could make a lot of money, that I would be paid in US Dollars if I sold precious stones from a place called Warikari. When we got there, I found myself in armed groups fighting the Government of Rwanda," Theoneste Habumukiza, arrested terror suspect admitted.

Uganda's collaboration with such armed groups fighting Rwanda was again raised after one of the leaders of the RNC group was given a Ugandan Passport and the President of that country met with other leaders from the group after which he said it was by accident.

Those arrested carrying out operations to destabilize Rwanda say they are being treated very well, something they had not expected in light of what they caught doing.

"When you are caught and called an enemy in other countries, you are tortured. I therefore thank the Government of Rwanda, led by H.E the President Republic for the way they are treating us. It's very different from other places as I know it. The conditions we are being held in, are humane, and we have not been tortured," Maj (Rtd) Habib Mudathiru said.

Mudathiru is part of the 25 militias who are allegedly members of the Rwanda National Congress(RNC) which seeks to destabilize country’s security. He recently pleaded guilty of all offenses and begged pardon.

As time passes, more and more evidence comes to light, linking Uganda to people known to actively seek to harm Rwanda.

In October 2019, news spread that family and friends of Ben Rutabana, a follower of the RNC group had written to Ugandan Security Organs asking for his whereabouts, as a person who had gone to Uganda with the objective of engaging in activities to harm Rwanda.

The Government of Rwanda has also pointed out that Uganda has been hindering development projects in the Energy, Transportation and Petroleum Sectors meant for the Northern Corridor.

Goods from Rwanda including Precious Stones and milk were also held up in Uganda, causing great losses.

Uganda then raised the fact that Rwanda had asked that heavy trucks pass at the Kagitumba Border instead of Gatuna while that border post was being upgraded on the Rwandan side, saying this was an indication that the most serious problem between the 2 countries centered on border issues.

Rwanda warned her nationals from traveling to Uganda, pointing out that they were being persecuted there and also stressing that such actions by Ugandan Security Organs were hindering the free movement of people and goods.

Meanwhile, even Ugandan Lawyers have been questioning the blatantly illegal detention of Rwandans in their country.

As neighbors, Rwanda and Uganda share a lot and now people are looking to the Luanda Agreement to help resolve the issue.




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