Family of Rwandan who died after torture in Uganda appeals to government over repatriation of his body

Mageza's siblings; Kagoyire Francoise and Safari. /Courtesy

The family of Emmanuel Mageza, the Rwandan reported to have died in Butabika Hospital – an old mental health facility in the Ugandan capital – are in tears following the sad news. 

The family only learnt of it from Rwandan authorities – who in turn got it from second hand sources such as Ugandan media, which quoted Eron Kiiza the attorney of many ilegally arrested Rwandans. Mageza died after almost a full year in the dungeons of Mbuya, the headquarters of Ugandan Military Intelligence, CMI.  

Ugandan authorities never notified the Rwandan High Commission in Kampala of the arrest of its citizen in the first place. The Ugandans never bothered to notify the Rwandan embassy of his deteriorated health; or the fact that, following his loss of sanity and being taken to Butabika, he had passed away. The deliberate failure to notify the Rwandan diplomatic mission of these things – as international law obliges them to – is part of a pattern of lawless behavior by the Ugandans.

They never notify the Rwandan embassy each time Rwandan citizens are arrested in Uganda. On the numerous occasions Rwanda’s High Commissioner has written in concern after a Rwandan citizen was said to have been taken by security agencies, the Ugandan authorities merely ignore the notes verbale. To the Kampala regime it is as if international laws and conventions are mere scraps of paper. 

The most painful thing to Mageza’s family members is how he died. This, they have learnt, followed months of torture in a dungeon suffering such torture he went mad, after which he passed away.

His sister Francoise Kagoyire, and his brothers Safari, Bahati and Philbert were all in shock when this newspaper interviewed them at their mother’s home in the Byimana Village in Gisozi. “What did my brother do to deserve such inhuman treatment? My brother only was looking for business opportunities,” wept the inconsolable Kagoyire, intermittently wiping her eyes. 

Through tears, she kept repeating: “my brother; my brother!” 

A teacher at Kigali Parent’s School, she asked why the Ugandan Government treats innocent Rwandans so badly, yet even at her workplace, she says, “there are very many Ugandans that are part of the teaching staff, but no one disturbs their peace; not in the smallest way!”

Safari, the third born of the family – after Mageza and Kagoyire – expressed unspeakable sadness recalling the last day he saw his brother: “when he left last year I saw him off at the bus station in Nyabugogo. I could not have known that was the last we would see him!. 

“Now to hear that he died from torture? My brother who never involved himself in politics? How could they arrest him, and treat him so inhumanly; such an innocent man?”

Mageza’s fate was sealed when agents of CMI in Mbarara pulled him off his Kampala-bound bus. Inquiries by this newspaper have revealed that when they abducted the Rwandan, they bound him in the eyes with blindfolds and drove with him to Makenke Barracks in Mbarara. 

This place has become notorious as a facility in which kidnapped Rwandans are detained and tortured after which they are taken to CMI headquarters in Mbuya, for even more horrific physical abuse. Makenke is best known as home of the UPDF 2nd Division; and the place where its counterintelligence operatives – headed by Maj. Mushambo – have detained many Rwandans.

They subject them to brutal interrogation, characterized by repeated beatings. They also rob their victims of any money on them, and of property like phones. 

Two Rwandan nationals, Emmanuel Rwamucyo and Augustin Rutayisire are eyewitnesses and victims of the activities in Makenke Barracks. The two businessmen and friends, who were abducted together by Mukama Moses Kandiho – a government intelligence operative in the area who also happens to be the brother of Brig. Abel Kandiho the CMI chief – are amongst the lucky few to survive.

“After (Moses) Kandiho’s men abducted us – when in fact he was the one that had asked us to meet him! – they drove us to Makenke, and locked us in a very smelly cell,” Rwamucyo narrated to Kigali media from his bed in Kanombe Hospital where he and the eight others, the men recently released from illegal detention in Uganda, were recuperating . 

“I had forty thousand US dollars in my car; only to hear it later in the night drive into the barracks. Then I just knew the money had been stolen!” Rwamucyo gesticulated as he spoke. Torture and theft only are two of the misfortune Rwandans that fall into the hands of CMI, or other Ugandan security operatives suffer. 

Mageza’s money too was stolen, enroute to his cell in Makenke though this newspaper was yet to establish how much. 

Ever since the Kampala regime adopted its anti-Rwanda hostility, getting into bed with Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC and other anti-Rwanda groups, innocent Rwandans have been targetted for a variety of reasons. They capture the young and able-bodied to try to force them join RNC as rebel recruits. So many are reported to refuse, and suffer appalling physical abuse. 

Also, RNC agents working hand in hand with the CMI identify well-to-do Rwandans, to try to recruit them as fundraisers for “the cause of regime change in Kigali.” Again many have refused, asking what wrong the government in Kigali has done. Therefore many of these too have found themselves abducted on concocted charges, and tortured. 

The accusations vary, from “espionage”, to “illegal arms possession”, to “illegal entry”, and “kidnap”. They never show proof of any of these accusations. Nor do they ever produce the victims in court to defend themselves. 

But Kampala’s anti-Rwanda hostility has also provided a loophole for thieving Ugandan security agents, who, like Moses Kandiho target those they may identify as having money, rob them, then lock them up accusing them of “illegal weapons possession”, or “spying for Rwanda”. 

Mageza lost his sanity after months of the torture in Mbuya. Eyewitnesses, and survivors of that place have told of the sadistic enjoyment with which CMI agents, with their RNC henchmen, inflict torture that includes electrocutions, waterboarding (which simulates drowning), or emersion for several minutes in ice water, in addition to relentless, daily beatings with electric cables, or clubs. 

According to reports, usually when someone goes insane, the CMI agents shoot him and dump the body. But in the case of Mageza, because his lawyer Eron Kiiza kept hounding CMI to produce him, they took him to Butabika perhaps thinking he could get better, after which they would hand him over. 

It was not to be. He died on 21 January, this year and CMI took several days to leak the story to Daily Monitor – which has become like one of its misinformation outlets – which published an article misleadingly titled: “Detained Rwandan national found dead.” 

It is as if the Rwandan just dropped and died; as if no one touched him! commented an outraged reader. 

Mageza’s family are appealing to the Rwandan government to help with repatriation of his body. “Only our government can help us, because none of us can ever even step in Uganda,” said Kagoyire.

The fate of hundreds of other Rwandans remains unknown. In addition to those still held in the dungeons of CMI and other intelligence organs, there are so many others that were locked up in Kampala’s Luzira, and several other prisons in Uganda and never were heard from again.    

The question, law experts warn, is: how, and when will Uganda hold the CMI, and other Ugandan intelligence operatives that have been committing human rights abuses against Rwandan citizens accountable?

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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