Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Uganda, Frank Mugambaje, has welcomed the decision to release nine Rwandans who had been arbitrarily arrested in Uganda.
Mugambage was speaking at a joint news conference alongside Uganda’s Foreign Minister, Sam Kutesa, on Wednesday.
All the nine Rwandans were present at the news conference in the capital Kampala.
“What we are witnessing is a very good step in the right direction. I would like to welcome my nationals back to the freedom they desire and deserve,” Mugambage said.
WATCH: All the Nine Rwandans who were yesterday set free by a Ugandan military court have arrived at Gatuna border post.— The New Times (Rwanda) (@NewTimesRwanda) January 8, 2020
Most of them have been held for close to three years. pic.twitter.com/iAFePJpPjJ
The Rwandan diplomat hastened to add that the gesture by Uganda should be followed by other actions to end all concerns Rwanda has raised over time.
“There is need to address other things as well,” he said, adding that the release of the Rwandans was a positive step in a journey that should include putting an end to the negative forces against the Government of Rwanda.
“Indeed, deal with those [negative forces] who are in Uganda,” Mugambage said.
PHOTOS: Some of the Rwandans released from Ugandan prisons share their happiness with media soon after their arrival at Gatuna border post early this morning.— The New Times (Rwanda) (@NewTimesRwanda) January 9, 2020
? @kwizeraimages pic.twitter.com/5diaAtzrkv
Relations between the two countries have in recent years been strained mainly by the arbitrary arrest of innocent Rwandans and the support accorded by Uganda to negative elements aimed at destabilising Rwanda.
“We request, in good gesture, that all those who were arbitrary arrested and are under illegal detention should indeed be released,” Mugambage said referring to the dozens of Rwandans who are still languishing in Ugandan ‘safe houses’ and prisons.
“The lawyers for those released have mentioned that there was no evidence or witnesses that were presented even though they have been held for some time,” he said. “The whole act, principle of arbitrary arrest must end.”
On his part, Sam Kutesa, Uganda’s Foreign affairs minister, echoed his country’s determination to restore relations between the countries, pointing out that the release of the nine Rwandans was an act of goodwill.
“I wish to reiterate Uganda’s commitment to full normalisation of relations between our two countries and further assure you that any outstanding issues and concerns will be addressed in an open and transparent manner,” Kutesa said.
Mugambage said that the journey to restore relations must continue.
“For me, Rwandans and the country I represent, it is the will to re-establish the smooth running of bilateral relations that will revamp the associated mutually beneficial activities including uninterrupted activities along the common border,” Rwanda’s top diplomat said.
Some of the released Rwandans at Gatuna border.
The released Rwandans arrived at Gatuna border at around midnight on Wednesday.
Some had been incarcerated in Uganda for as long as three years.
Officials have said that the released Rwandans will undergo thorough medical check-ups to ascertain their health condition. Some of those released previously have gone on to struggle with health conditions arising from torture enduring during their detention in Uganda. One of the victims, Silas Hategekimana, 43, succumbed to internal injuries in September last year.
Kigali says it expects Uganda to release hundreds of other Rwandans held in largely ungazetted detention centres in Uganda.