Rwandans deported from Uganda decry illegal detention, torture

20 Rwandans who were illegally detained and tortured by Ugandan Security personnel before they were deported on June 13, 2019. / Emmanuel Kwizera

Pastor Jean de Dieu Singiranabo, 39, is among 20 Rwandans who were deported from Uganda Wednesday.

He was a member of ADEPR-PCIU (Pentecostal Church International of Uganda), an offshoot of Association of Pentecostal Churches in Rwanda (ADEPR).

He first arrived in Uganda in 2006 as a student and an evangelist. Trouble started early this year when Rwandans started getting harassed and arrested in big numbers accused of spying.

“Our captors told us that ADEPR was a spying tool for Rwanda, but when we denied it they refused to listen and insisted they must dismantle our Church,” said Singiranabo.

They were later arrested and bundled into a vehicle and thrown in jail in Mbuya, the headquarters of the dreaded Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).

Silas Hategekimana, 43, went to Uganda in 2009 and started a new life there with his family.  But the father of three was also arrested and tortured so badly that recalling what he endured makes him shudder.

He was a boda-boda (taxi-moto rider) in Kampala and was the sole breadwinner. He's now haunted by thoughts of how his family is coping in Uganda without him. In all the 18 days he and others were detained, he says, he had no contact with his immediate family. 

“In jail I met people who were being detained because they deserted from training camps in (DR) Congo. Some told me they were members of Rwanda National Congress, while one of them told me he was from Victoire Ingabire’s party, FDU-Inkingi,” recalled Hategekimana.

The Ugandan capital of Kampala, he said, has a network of mostly taxi-moto riders who belong to the RNC network.

“They tried to recruit me but I told them that my advanced age wouldn’t allow me to join such (subversive activities) and I ddidnt have any interest in fighting my country. They are based in the city, near the Volcano bus stage. They mentioned a military officer who was in charge of the operation to taint the Rwandan government’s image as well as recruit people for their cause”.

While he's relieved to back back home in Rwanda, his is a bittersweet feeling. He is worried about his family because he left them behind.

“We were told that they are going to comb through all villages in Uganda and get rid of Rwandans there who don’t support them or who are not willing to join them in fighting against Rwanda.”

“Torture was the order of the day. I spent days on end being beaten and splashed with very cold water every time I passed out. My tormentors were speaking Kinyarwanda,” he pointed out, adding that they wanted them to join forces working to destabilise Kigali. They were also detained along with others from DR Congo who “had deserted FDLR and RNC” training camps there,” recounted Pastor Singiranabo. 

He is worried about the fate of his wife and three children who he left behind and is not sure about their fate. 

“We’ve lost property and don’t know if we will ever get anything back. We asked about our wives and children but they told us to go and marry other women in Rwanda and have other children”.

Pastor Jean de Dieu Singiranabo, 39, an evangelist who was among the 20 Rwandans deported by Uganda on Wednesday. / Emmanuel Kwizera

RNC,which is linked to a spate of fatal grenade attacks that rocked Kigali about 10 years ago,was created by Rwandan fugitives. They include former senior military officers wanted in Rwanda over terrorism-related cases for which they were tried in absentia and sentenced to various jail terms. 

Uganda has lately been linked to several anti-Kigali armed groups, including FDLR, the offshoot of forces and militia responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and FLN, which last year made incursions on Rwandan territory through Burundi, killing at least nine civilians and wounding several others.

A UN report of experts released in December said Uganda was a major source of new recruits for ‘P5’, a coalition that brings together different Rwandan rebel groups led by RNC’s Kayumba Nyamwasa, a Rwandan renegade based in South Africa.

In the past few months, Kigali has indicated that it is concerned about the fate of hundreds of Rwandans incarcerated in Uganda and with no access to consular services and enduring tortur. Wednesday’s deportations are the largest group of Rwandans irregularly deported from Uganda at once over the last couple of month