Rwanda rejects Uganda claims over border incident

Richard Sezibera, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Government Spokesperson. / File

The Government of Rwanda has said that the two men who died following an incident near the border with Uganda were on the Rwandan territory when they confronted Rwandan security forces on patrol.

A note verbale by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to their Ugandan counterparts, dated May 25, 2019, said the “incident took place in Tabagwe Cell, Tabagwe Sector, Nyagatare District, Republic of Rwanda.”

“The Ministry would like to inform that on the above named dates, Rwandan security forces intercepted a suspected smuggler on a motorcycle who had just crossed the border from Uganda at night through an ungazetted border point,” it said, rejecting claims by the Ugandan government, contained in a note verbale sent earlier Saturday, that the incident took place over 50m inside Ugandan territory.

Kigali says the security forces shot the two men – John Baptist Kyerengye, a Rwandan national and Alex Nyesiga, a Ugandan, after the former “resisted arrest and was immediately joined by others who attacked the officers with machetes.”

“The officers, in self defense, fired and struck two individuals, Kyerengye John Baptist a Rwandan, and Nyesiga Alex, who later died,” the Ministry wrote to Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In their own note verbale to their Rwandan counterparts, which Kigali said was “first disseminated to the media and subsequently delivered to the Ministry”, Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had indicated that the incident had occurred at Kiruhura Village, Kashekye Parish, Kamwezi sub-county, Rukiga District in Uganda on the night of May 24.

But Rwanda says no member of its security forces crossed into Uganda, explaining that once the attacking group had crossed back into Uganda with their wounded associates, Rwandan security forces ceased pursuit.

The smugglers left behind a motorcycle, registration number RE 736 G, and their contraband, the Ministry said in the note verbale, whose copy was seen by Sunday Times.

The Ministry also noted that officials from both sides of the border had met on Saturday morning to examine the matter and determined that the incident had taken place on Rwandan soil.

“The Ministry further reminds that on the 25th of May the incident was discussed in a meeting between Rwandan local authorities led by Nyagatare District Mayor David Claudien Mushabe, and their Ugandan counterparts led by Rukiga District LC5, Alex Kampikaho.

“Security officials from both countries were part of the meeting. The meeting confirmed that the incident took place on Rwandan territory,” it said.

It added “The Government of the Republic of Rwanda regrets the loss of life of the citizens of both countries and is ready to receive the body of her national now in Uganda.

“Government recalls its unwavering commitment to harmonious relations between the people of Rwanda and Uganda including those living in border areas.”

Government further calls on cooperation in dealing with crimes, including cross border crimes, the diplomatic communication added.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Rwanda avails itself of the opportunity to renew to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uganda the assurances of its highest consideration,” it concluded.

The Ministry’s official response to their Ugandan counterparts came hours after Dr Richard Sezibera, Rwanda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, took to Twitter and described as “fake news” media reports that promoted Uganda’s version of events.

“Fake news: No such thing happened. Detailed response in a few!!” Sezibera tweeted Saturday.

In its own official correspondence to the Government of Rwanda, Uganda claimed that when the smuggler attempted to cross into Rwanda on a motorcycle loaded with merchandise he saw Rwandan security and turned back before he was pursued by two armed soldiers who intercepted him across the border and shot him, along with the Ugandan national who had “intervened”.

The Ugandan national died on the way to a nearby health centre while “the Rwandan soldiers retreated back to Rwanda after failed attempts to forcefully remove the body from the Ugandan territory,” the Ugandan government said.

It added that it was ready to hand over the body of the deceased Rwandan on Monday, May 27, at Gatuna border post.

Rwanda and Uganda have had tense relations lately in the wake of a growing body of evidence of Kampala’s support of armed and dissident groups bent on destabilising Rwanda. 

Several rebel leaders who have been arrested in recent months have implicated Uganda in plots to attack Rwanda, including its role in last year’s attacks in areas near Nyungwe forest that killed nine people and wounded several others.

Kigali has also accused Kampala of arbitrarily arresting, torturing and deporting Rwandan nationals. Rwanda says over 1000 innocent Rwandans are languishing in ungazetted detention centres in different parts of Uganda.

Many of those who have been deported have turned up at the border in very bad shape, some in wheelchairs, as a result of the ordeal they were subjected to in torture chambers.

Many of the victims have spent years in such detention centres without being produced before court and have been denied of consular services, according to accounts of some of those deported.

The Rwandan government also accused Uganda of economic sabotage, after cargo trucks from Rwanda were impounded for months on several occasions with no clear explanation.

Uganda has maintained that Kigali’s grievances are unfounded and instead criticised Rwanda’s travel advisory to its nationals.

However, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has admitted to hosting some of the dissidents in question, claiming he met them accidentally.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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