In July last year, Espérance Dusabimana, a Rwandan citizen, travelled to Uganda with her husband to pay her last respects to her aunt who had just passed on.
The couple left their home in Rubavu District early in the morning and boarded the bus to Uganda. Dusabimana was two months pregnant.
When we reached a place called Rubanda, she narrated, “we were stopped (by Ugandan military men) and asked to get out of the bus and sit down.”
“We were many onboard and men were handcuffed immediately, they confiscated our ID cards and accused us of illegally entering the country,” she adds.
At around 5pm, Ugandan authorities, brought a military vehicle and took all the Rwandan citizens with them. They were all illegally detained.
“Our husbands were still handcuffed, we were taken to Ndorwa prison in Kabale (Western Uganda) where we were detained,” Dusabimana recounts.
One of the victims deported by Ugandan authorities showing scars where he was cut by CMI officers so that he could confess he was a spy. Courtesy
Dusabimana says that while in prison they were tortured and starved.
“We were repeatedly beaten, we had to report every morning for a parade and whoever delayed could be beaten, women were beaten on their own behalf and on behalf of their children,” she said.
Dusabimana was subjected to torture throughout her pregnancy period, and says that it was by God’s mercy she did not have a miscarriage.
“Because I was pregnant, I had complications and other inmates called for police to inform them that I was sick, I was rushed to hospital and got basic treatment, the medics gave me medicine and I was taken back to prison,”
“I endured severe pain, lived bad life and ate badly the entire time spent in prison. When I had signs of labour, I was taken to hospital and delivered. I spent one day at hospital and I was brought back to prison,” she says.
She says, there are many Rwandans still detained in Ndorwa prison.
“After a certain period, I asked security officers to let me talk to my husband and allow him to see the baby, they refused but as I insisted, we were allowed to meet but we were only given about a minute,” she says.
We were fed on half-cooked maize and beans, she said, adding that she developed stomachaches in the process and was taken back to hospital only to be given regular tablets to swallow. She was later taken back to prison.
“I still use the medicine, my baby was also hospitalised because he was malnourished but was discharged after four days,” she says.
Dusabimana is not the only female inmate who was tortured at the hands of Ugandan authorities. In fact, she recalls a woman who died along with her newborn baby in the same prison.
“The woman was pregnant and she delivered from prison, because of bad conditions and torture we were enduring and poor nutrition, she got sick and died from hospital. We were informed about her death and we were shocked, and then her baby died days later,” she says.
Through their detention, Ugandan authorities used to ask one question; why they left their country.
“We were…threatened that we would be taken to a refugee camps. Pregnant women were beaten up while children suffered the most. There is also another baby who died from there.”
Her advice to Rwandans who may wish to cross to Uganda is that they shouldn’t dare until the situation improves.
“I would advise anyone who wants to go to Uganda not to because there is no security, many Rwandans are languishing in Uganda’s detention centres,” she said.
Dusabimana was deported by Ugandan authorities on Saturday through Kagitumba border along with other eight other Rwandans, including her husband.
The victims were arrested separately and have been illegally detained by Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).
Simon Bakoreyubusa, who hails from Ruhango District, says he was conducting his business as usual in Mbarara, Western Uganda when he was arrested in April last year by military personnel.
He spent nearly a year largely blindfolded and handcuffed. He was, along with other detainees, beaten up by security forces.
“I was arrested from my home where I used to stay, I was first taken to Makenke barracks (in Mbarara) where I was severely beaten. Two days later I was taken to CMI’s offices in Mbuya in Kampala where I was also tortured. I was always handcuffed. I was held in a cave in a cold place,” says Bakoreyubusa, who used to work as a technician in a milk factory.
“They wanted me to say that I was a spy working for Rwandan government so that they could forgive me and recruit me into Rwanda National Congress (RNC) rebels or else I could die,” he adds.
Bakoreyubusa says he spent almost the whole year in various detentions without any charge or being produced before any court.
“To our surprise, we were recently taken out of prison and were given our documents, it was not until Saturday that we crossed the border to Rwanda,” he says.
Since 2017, many Rwandans have reportedly been arrested, held incommunicado and tortured in Uganda according to officials.
Some of those who have since been released have told of despicable treatment at the hands of people linked to the Ugandan military during their detention in ‘safe houses’ while many are still missing.
Over the last two years, about 1000 Rwandans have been irregularly deported from Uganda while 190 have been arrested and tortured, according to information from Rwanda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.