By John Kakooza
Investigations by Great Lakes Watchman have unearthed copies of “notes verbale” letters written by the High Commission (embassy) of Rwanda here in Kampala. They prove that the neighboring country’s nationals have been abducted by Ugandan intelligence agencies, detained and held incommunicado. They confirm that most notable of the security agencies terrorizing Rwandans is the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).
Amongst the notes verbale – written on paper with Rwanda High Commission letterhead – that GLW saw is one dated 29 March 2018. This particular one begins: “The High Commission of the Republic of Rwanda presents its complements to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uganda and has the honor to bring to the latter’s attention the High Commission’s concerns with the continued arrest and illegal detention of Rwandans travelling or staying in Uganda, under unclear circumstances.
“The High Commission has received complaints from the families of Rwandans who were arrested in different parts of Uganda and detained incommunicado as indicated in the following list.”
The document then provides the names of 15 Rwandans listed in a table showing the places where they were arrested, and remarks detailing reports to the High Commission by families of the detained Rwandans, the dates on which they were arrested, and the worrying circumstances in which they were taken away.
Below the list the letter says: “The High Commission of the Republic of Rwanda therefore requests you to intervene in the matter and establish the circumstances surrounding the arrests, and requests that officials of the Rwanda High Commission, Kampala be accorded consular visits to the subject detainees.”
The Rwandan nationals on that particular list were picked up from three places: Mbarara town, Kampala Volcano Bus Terminal, and Isingiro in western Uganda.
According to the many news articles that have quoted such notes verbale, none is ever answered or acknowledged by government authorities here in Kampala. Media reports have quoted Rwandan officials again and again saying they have raised the issue of harassed, illegally detained and tortured Rwandans to the government here, “but they never acknowledge”.
The latest Rwandan authority to repeat that is the president of the neighboring country himself, whom media a few days ago quoted while speaking at a leadership retreat. “We have many times talked to Uganda about these arrests, or imprisonments of Rwandans but got no responses,” President Kagame said. He added that such treatment of Rwandans was the reason his government at the beginning of this month decided to advise Rwandans against travel to Uganda.
Rwandans that have been abducted – from buses as they were travelling to Kampala, or those already in Kampala, in addition to several that live, work, or do business in other parts of Uganda – by the country’s security agencies are too many to list here.
An example is a Rwandan couple, Darius Kayobera, his wife Uwineza Claudine and their employee Mucyo Jean Claude. We have a copy of another note verbale by the Rwandan embassy to the Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs notifying of their (illegal) arrest on 29 January 2019.
Information this website has is that the couple who live in Rubaga ran a business on Musajjalumba Road. Our informants tell us that on midnight of the day they were taken away, operatives of CMI simply ordered Kayobera and Uwineza – parents of little children aged 9, 6 and 3 – as well as Mucyo to get into their vehicle of dark tinted glasses.
According to eyewitnesses, these people were not told what they had done. They were not read any charges. It was just “get into the car!”, and their abductors drove away with them. The abductors did not care that two of these people were parents of little children that would remain alone. Friends and family frantically moved to all the offices of known security agencies looking for information.
It was later found out they had been taken to CMI headquarters in Mbuya – a feared and notorious place of torture. Rwandan survivors of that dungeon have described terrible things. One is Muhawenimana Damascene, 37, whom CMI brutally picked him in Nsambya, slapped a hood – “something like a big hat” – over his head and drove him in handcuffs and leg chains to Mbuya.
Muhawenimana was quoted in Rwandan online media saying, “CMI are the worst thugs; they are torturers that have zero regard for human rights!” He described hair-raising beatings of Rwandans by the CMI operatives whom he asserted work with RNC agents. “They speak fluent Kinyarwanda,” disclosed Damascene. Up to today, the families of Kayobera and his wife, together with their employee have not been able to communicate with them.
Another of the notes verbale that GLW saw, there is one that protests the release of a group of young recruits of the anti-Rwanda rebel group, RNC, by the Mbarara Magistrates Court last year 25 June. The recruits were in jail pending trial for terrorism after Uganda immigration officials intercepted them at the Kikagati border post with Tanzania in December 2017 with forged Ugandan papers.
Upon questioning they had confessed they were on their way to RNC training camps in DRC, and that it was CMI – working together with RNC agents – that recruited them in refugee camps in Uganda.
“We would like to request for information regarding the circumstances in which 39 recruits of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) recruits were released on 25 June 2018 by the Magistrate Court in Mbarara,” said the note. “They had been in custody awaiting trial for breach of laws precluding refugees from involvement in criminal activities, including taking part in plans to destabilize Rwanda,” it added.
Apparently “someone” in Kampala possesses enough power to have courts release people accused of as serious a charge as terrorism after only a few months in custody, and without trial.
Kigali has accused Kampala, with proof, of working with groups that have declared war on Rwanda. Ugandan authorities have repeatedly denied it despite all the evidence on display. The note verbale letters that GLW has seen only are further confirmation of what the Rwandans’ accuse Uganda of, and it contradicts the denials of high-ranking officials like Kutesa.