On Thursday last week, Elias Tuyiringire returned to Rwanda after serving 15 months in Kisoro prison in Uganda.
He was arrested at his employer’s home in June last year during a special operation by Ugandan security agencies. The operation saw him and other fellow Rwandans arrested and sentenced over illegal stay in Uganda.
Tuyiringre, 24, is a resident of Musanze District in Gataraga Sector, Northern Province. He was living with his parents and his little brother.
In February last year, a Ugandan national told Tuyiringire that he got him a job to work for him and took him to Uganda. He worked on the farm besides doing some house help activities for a monthly salary of UGSh 150,000, approximately Rwf32,000. Three months later, he was arrested.
They spent 15 days in detention at the police station before being taken to court. Before the trial, he said, the judge came by and briefed them that whoever pleaded guilty would see their sentence reduced.
Those who accepted the charges were sentenced to serve 23 months in prison but Tuyiringire rejected the charges and was immediately taken to Gisoro Prison. After nine months, he went back to court where was handed a 15-month prison sentence.
While in prison, Tuyiringire said he and other Rwandans endured slavery and torture as they were subjected to forced labour like breaking stones, carrying heavy trees for cooking and working on farms.
“They would beat us up so we could work harder. If one wasn’t able to work, they would beat him and none would get medicine in case they fell sick due to the assaults or any other disease,” he said.
“At this moment, I can’t sit for a long, with no other choice but going to bed. I can’t do anything physical for myself either.
He also met over 60 more Rwandans at Kisoro Prison who had the same cases like his.
“When you talk to them, they tell you that they are jailed for no reason but because they are Rwandans who were arrested while doing their businesses in Uganda,” he said.
Upon his release from prison, Tuyiringire spent two days looking for the money and other documents he left at the prison administration after his arrest.
“I gave them Rwf75, 000 and my ID before but they did not return them when I was released. I could not wait for them for fear that they would put me in prison again and I left empty handed,” he said.
Tuyiringire says he is planning to appeal for his money and other properties he left in Uganda.