Deported Rwandan recounts ordeal suffered at hands of Ugandan intelligence operatives

Kayibanda Rogers speaking to journalists in Kigali yesterday. In January 2019, He embarked on the trip to Kampala. Emmanuel Kwizera

Rogers Donne Kayibanda, a 43-year old Rwandan, is the latest victim of alleged illegal detention and repeated harassment of tens of Rwandans who travel to or through Uganda.

Kayibanda who had been held illegally by Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) for over a month, was on Friday deported by Ugandan authorities.

He was handed to Rwandan immigration officials at Gatuna border on Friday morning.

Kayibanda recounted how the spate of unfortunate incidents happened to him in the neighbouring country, where he had travelled to attend a civil wedding of his younger brother.

This was on January 11.

“I went to Uganda to accompany my young brother to a civil wedding. We went to Uganda Registration Services Bureau on January 11 with a group of about 13 people. After the function we were hosted to a farewell before everyone could go back to his or her business,” he narrated.

When Kayibanda and family separated, he retired to a friend’s house in Kisasi, a Kampala suburb, where he planned to spend two days before returning to Kigali.

Upon reaching there, his old time friends invited him to Ntinda, another Kampala suburb, for a drink-up, an invitation that he did not turn down.

“I freshened up at my friend’s and rushed to meet those friends who we had spent a long time without meeting. We shared drinks and had great conversations until one of the friends started asking me the situation in Rwanda and stories of how the Government arrests Rwandans to which I kept responding that I’ve not seen any Rwandan who has been arrested unlawfully,” he said of the night it all unfolded.

During that night, an unidentified man approached him and asked if he could talk to him for a minute, which he agreed.

As he was talking to him, a group of about other five operatives came and immediately blindfolded him, put him into a minibus and drove to a place, which he later found out was Mbuya Military Barracks in Kampala.

Kayibanda said he was taken to the barracks where he spent about two weeks blindfolded and his hands tied up, until the first interrogation came, in which operatives continuously alleged him of being a Major in the Rwandan army and for entering the country illegally.

“I told them that I have never been a soldier and asked them to check all the documents I had handed them upon arriving at the barracks where I had been taken and they found nothing. Here, I went through several interrogations all of which I met different intelligence officers asking me the same question,” he explained.

He recalled being interrogated about five times, including one time where he says he also met an operative who introduced himself as the director of CMI.

The Director of CMI is Brigadier General Abel Kandiho.

While Kayibanda says he wasn’t tortured where he was locked, he said several Ugandan military operatives kept threatening to kill him if he failed to cooperate, highlighting that he also met a number of Rwandans arrested in the different dirty rooms, including underground caves, where he was held.

“I could not count the number but in the first room where I was held, I was told that there were about 10 Rwandans, and the second underground safe house, they told me they were about 20 Rwandans,” he noted.

Since 2017 many Rwandans have reportedly been arrested, held incommunicado and tortured in Uganda.

Some of those who have since been released have told of despicable treatment at the hands of people linked to the Ugandan military during their detention in ‘safe houses’ while many are still missing.

Kayibanda was deported from Uganda the same day the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Richard Sezibera, sent a travel advisory, strongly urging Rwandans against travelling to Uganda due to the ongoing arrests, harassment and torture of Rwandans by Ugandan authorities.

This also came following responses from some of Ugandan officials denying that there was no witch hunt for Rwandans in Uganda, something Rwandan officials, particularly Olivier Nduhungirehe, the Minister of State in charge of EAC at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denied.

“There are more than 40 #Rwandan citizens languishing in cells of Uganda's Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (#CMI) and more than 800 Rwandans who were deported from or refused entry to #Uganda since January 2018,” he posted on Twitter, responding to claims by Ugandan authorities.