Rwandan civilians before Ugandan court martial on unproven weapons charges

Two Rwandan citizens that were arrested in Mbarara, Uganda, on 25 May 2018 – and held incommunicado since then – were produced before the General Court Martial in Makindye Kampala, this week on Tuesday 26 March 2019.  

The two men, Rwamucyo Emmanuel and Rutayisire Augustin, both civilians and businessmen, were charged in the military court with unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition. According to legal analysts, let alone the fact there is no proof these men had any weapon, as civilians they cannot lawfully be tried in a military court.

The Uganda Constitutional Court, in resolving the issue whether the General Court Martial had jurisdiction to try civilians (whether in possession of firearms or not) stated in 2005 that the military tribunal under UPDF had no jurisdiction to try civilians. In a case that the Uganda Law Society brought against the Attorney General, the court confirmed that trying civilians in the Court Martial “would be contravening Articles 210 and 126 of the Constitution of Uganda”. 

The Constitutional Court further emphasized that the General Court Martial had no jurisdiction to try civilians because it was created to regulate the UPDF. “A court without jurisdiction over a matter is incompetent and incapable of offering one a fair trial within the meaning of Article 28(1) of the constitution,” ruled the court.

Thus, illegally being taken to a court martial is only the latest of the abuse of the rights of Rwamucyo and Rutayisire who, according to witnesses, were in fact not properly arrested – i.e. with warrants or with due process – but abducted by Uganda’s military intelligence. 

When they were taken away, Ugandan security agencies said the men were suspected of being part of “an espionage racket of Rwandans in Uganda”. That is what ChimpReports, one of the many Museveni-regime media outlets reported on 14 September 2018, almost four full months after the abduction of the men. 

According to observers that have followed the case, it bore all the hallmarks of the ongoing victimization of Rwandan civilians either traveling to Uganda or those already there, by the Museveni regime’s security services. 

When they were brought to the Court Martial they were not charged with the alleged espionage, however. 

The story had changed. One Mukama Moses Kandiho, a GISO (Government Internal Security Officer) of Ruborogota in Isingiro District alleged that Rwamucyo was involved in a robbery plot. Here, one may first note that Mukama Moses Kandiho is the brother of Brig. Gen. Abel Kandiho, head of Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI). 

Countless Rwandans have described in the media how they were locked up in un-gazetted places of detention, the so-called “safe houses” of CMI. Many have told of the torture going on in the so-called safe houses, and the dungeons of Mbuya Military Barracks where CMI headquarters are. 

Those that have been lucky to get out, like Roger Donne Kayibanda who was abducted by CMI operatives and taken to the dungeons in Mbuya (“they surrounded me, about five of them and before I knew it they had shoved me in their vehicle and slapped a hood, like a big hat, over my head!” he narrated) are emphatic that they were abducted, “just because of their nationality”.

Already, according to those that have followed the cases of Rwamucyo and Rutayisire, the fact that the brother of Abel Kandiho is the main witness against the two, “already raises a serious suspicion that the duo only fell victim to CMI’s ongoing witch-hunt of Rwandan nationals.”

Kandiho’s brother’s “testimony” (which was submitted in writing, meaning the man was unavailable for cross examination by the lawyers of the two Rwandans) was that on 25 May 2018 he was called by Rwamucyo to find him at his hotel in Kikagati, and that upon arrival he found Rwamucyo with Rutayisire. 

Kandiho’s brother then alleges that Rwamucyo told him of a mission to “steal one million dollars from some businessman”, and that he said he “required at least two guns but had managed to get one AK 47”. The Rwandan then allegedly asked Mukama Kandiho, “If he could get him a second gun.”

The tale continues that instead of participating in “the mission”, Mukama Kandiho instead informed the 2nd Division Counter-Intelligence Officer Maj. Mushambo to come and arrest the two Rwandans. 

Kandiho’s brother’s allegations continue that Mushambo’s officers searched Rwamucyo’s car and found the gun. The men were delivered into the hands of CMI for interrogation, meaning torture. 

That’s how the story changed from “espionage” to “robbery”.

According to relatives of Rwamucyo, on the day he was abducted, he had gone to a bank in Mbarara to deposit forty million shillings. He had called his friend Rutayisire to accompany him since he was carrying a large sum of cash. 

The two are not the first Rwandans to be slapped with concocted “weapons possession” charges. 

Ugandan security operatives, it is common knowledge by now, work hand in hand with agents of RNC – the anti-Rwanda group headed by fugitive Kayumba Nyamwasa that has openly declared war on Rwanda. CMI, ISO and others actively facilitate RNC in the latter’s efforts to recruit fighters from areas with Banyarwanda populations. 

The recruitment efforts aren’t limited to fighters. CMI also works with RNC to identify Rwandans with means – such as businessmen, big farmers and others – whom they ask to become contributors of funds or materiel to RNC. Reliable information is that Rwandans that are approached in such a way but refuse to be part of RNC’s schemes are “marked”, to “be fixed” later.

Many have been harassed, beaten up, locked up or tortured and later dumped at the borders. Others have had guns planted on them, after which weapons possession charges are brought against them.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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