Over a week ago, two men were killed near the Rwanda-Uganda border when one of them, a Rwandan national, tried to smuggle into the country assorted contraband on a motorcycle.
The Rwandan, Pierre Nkerenke, who was a resident of Tabagwe Sector in Nyagatare District, was unfortunately killed after resisting arrest when he was intercepted by a security patrol with his contraband from Uganda.
The other person killed was a Ugandan national who was among the mob that attacked Rwandan security officials with machetes during the incident.
Uganda had claimed that Nkerenke was shot dead from the Ugandan side, a version disputed by their Rwandan counterparts.
The New Times on Sunday travelled for close to four hours to visit the scene in the remote area in Tabagwe, commonly known as Ku Misave.
A visit to the place, the GPS coordinates of the area, and accounts from area residents clearly show the incident happened within Rwanda.
There are clear pillars marking the boundaries of the two countries.
A small river that divides both countries. / JC Munezero
A few metres inside the Rwandan territory is a road next to which the scuffle that led to the shooting of the two individuals occurred.
In fact, next to the scene is a banana plantation owned by a Rwandan and opposite that are seven trees (imisave), after which the area is named.
This is contrary to what has been reported by the Ugandan media that there are eucalyptus trees at the crossing.
From the pillar that is right next to the trees one is able to see a second pillar several metres away.
“These modern border pillars were used to take grid references, which clearly show that the entire scene where the incident occurred is on the Rwandan territory,” Pierre Tebuka, the Nyagatare District police commander in Rwanda, told The New Times.
Contrary to claims by Ugandan media that the road is what divides the two countries, the Ugandan side falls deep below the road buffer. / JC Munezero
The scuffle took place beside the road, right next to a red Airtel kiosk in Rwanda.
Just opposite the scene is a house for a Rwandan named Francis Rubambantare, while on the far left, on the other side of the pillar are a few houses that belong to Ugandans.
This is different from reports from Uganda, including by the police and Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that claimed the incident occurred some 50-80 metres within Uganda.
On the contrary, the entire scene of the incident is on the Rwandan territory, in Kagarama village, Tabagwe cell, Tabagwe Sector of Nyagatare District, based on geographical coordinates that are available even on the internet.
This is also stressed by testimonies by locals.
Francis Habarugira is an area resident. / JC Munezero
The same residents also explained the scuffle that led to the unfortunate shooting of Nkerenke and the Ugandan citizen on that fateful Friday night.
Rubambantare, who lives in close proximity of where the incident took place, said he heard people shouting while he was at home and on getting out, he realised the smuggler, supported by residents from the Ugandan side, was fighting local night patrol (Irondo).
He told The New Times that he went out to call other residents to intervene because the mob from across the border had turned rowdy with more Ugandans joining the scuffle.
“You would tell that they were prepared to fight our security personnel. They showed up with machetes and were clearly hostile and it was not any different when the soldiers came,” he said.
The concrete pillar that shows the boundaries between Rwanda and Uganda. The arrow points to the scene of crime. / JC Munezero
Media reports from Uganda had indicated that the two countries are separated by a road, but the said road is in Rwanda, according to the demarcations and the people who live here.
All these facts, according to police, were shared with their Uganda counterparts when they visited the scene early last week and, according to witnesses, immediately after they realised it was Rwandan territory, they hastily unsecured the scene and left.
Den of smugglers
Meanwhile, area residents said the story of smugglers trying to cross into the country is not a new thing at this particular border.
The executive secretary of Tabagwe Cell, Edmund Habarugira, said the area has been an oasis of smuggling activities, especially by Ugandans, who bribe some Rwandans to advance their illegal drug businesses.
Tabagwe sector executive Edmund Habarugira./ JC Munezero
He showed us one of the houses where the illegal business is coordinated just next to the borderline from the Ugandan side which he said was built barely three months ago.
“That house belongs to a Ugandan national. It is a depot of all sorts of drugs. The owner built it barely three months ago so that he can easily smuggle them into Rwanda,” he said.
Despite repeated warnings given to Ugandans who want to expand their shoddy drug business and smuggling, he said Ugandans continue to carry out their illegal activities with impunity.
The illicit substances that are often sneaked in from Uganda include the local crude gin, commonly known as Kanyanga, and marijuana, among others.
Uganda held a handover ceremony of the deceased Rwandan and invited ambassadors of different countries to the border in Gatuna.
And, the body was handed over to the Rwandan delegation at Gatuna border post, in Gicumbi District instead of Tabagwe where the incident took place.
Uganda was criticised for organising a ceremonial handover of the dead.
Hundreds of Rwandans are believed to be illegally held in several ‘ungazetted’ detention facilities in Uganda.