Rwanda demands release of citizens detained in Uganda

Amb. Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda's Minister of State in charge of the East African Community (right), shakes hands with Ugandan Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kuteesa during the first meeting of the ad hoc commission on the implementation of the Luanda MoU between Rwanda and Uganda in Kigali yesterday. Emmanuel Kwizera.

Monday’s meeting between Rwandan and Uganda officials in Kigali ended without a major breakthrough with both sides agreeing to meet in Kampala after 30 days to review progress on the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in Luanda, Angola last month.

According to a joint statement, which was released shortly after almost six hours of talks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Kimihurura, the Rwandan delegation served their Ugandan counterparts with a list of Rwandan nationals Kigali says were illegally arrested.

Amb. Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of the East African Community, told the delegates at the joint Ad hoc Commission meeting that persistent arbitrary detention and torture of innocent Rwandans in Uganda was one of the issues that have undermined bilateral relations between the two neighbours. 

In March, Kigali issued an advisory on Uganda travel saying it could not guarantee its citizens’ safety there.

Nduhungirehe said: “We’ve discussed many issues of mutual concern and agreed that the issue of free movement of persons, goods and services across the common border and other outstanding issues shall be discussed in the next meeting.”

According to the statement, Uganda promised to verify information related to the Rwandans detained there.

Kigali also accuses Uganda of aiding armed elements that seek to destabilise Rwanda.

A UN report released in December 2018 confirmed that Uganda was a major source of recruits for Rwandan rebel outfits based in eastern DR Congo.

However, speaking to journalists after yesterday’s meeting, Uganda’s Foreign Minister, Sam Kutesa, said: “Uganda does not harbour, will not harbour, it will not entertain, it will not encourage dissidents that want to destabilise Rwanda.”

However, two senior leaders of the FDLR militia arrested by Congolese authorities last year and transferred to Kigali confessed in court that they were seized as they returned from a meeting with Ugandan and RNC officials in Kampala.

Joint statement

In a joint statement released after closed-door deliberations, the two delegations agreed on a number of issues of mutual concern, including Rwanda providing Uganda with a list of its nationals believed to be detained in Uganda and the latter committed to verify the information.

Sources said the list contains 209 Rwandan nationals.

The verification will allow for due process including releasing those against whom no evidence of criminal conduct will have been found, officials said.

Both parties also agreed that due process will be followed in dealing with each other’s citizens and they reiterated their commitment to refraining from any acts of destabilisation against each other.

Rwanda and Uganda also agreed to finalise an extradition treaty in order to provide a framework for future exchange of criminal fugitives, and to cease all forms of hostile propaganda in both mainstream and social media.

Addressing delegates at the opening of the meeting, Nduhungirehe also said Uganda had been involved in “acts of economic sabotage” against Rwanda, and called for “full and meaningful implementation of the Luanda MoU.

The meeting was also attended by delegates from the facilitators of the peace effort, Angola and DR Congo, with the former represented by its Minister for External Relations Manuel Domingos Augusto, while the latter was represented by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Interior Gilbert Kankonde Malaba.

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