Rwandans recently handed over by Uganda have narrated disturbing experiences in the neighbouring country’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) detention centres during interrogations over alleged espionage.
The 13 Rwandans were released on Tuesday, February 18 following persistent calls to Uganda to release all illegally detained Rwandan nationals.
This is one of the seven demands Rwanda made to Uganda during talks to mend strained relations.
The Rwandans arrived at the Kagitumba border post around 3a.m on Wednesday.
In interviews with the media, they expressed joy to be back home, recounting troubling stories of their suffering at the hands of Ugandan security organs.
“I am still trying to grasp the fact that I am now free,” said Daniel Munezero, one of the Rwandans.
Munezero’s story of torture is a hard and tough one, a story of being tied in a room all day near a toilet, a story of beatings, and verbal torture.
Born in Nyagatare and resident in Kicukiro, Kigali, he always liked to go to Uganda to check on his relative who was studying from there.
He would go and return in peace until earlier this year.
This time, he had gone there to seek a particular document from Uganda’s Interpol, because he had earlier lived there.
“At Interpol, they asked me to bring them a document from the Rwandan embassy that shows that they knew me, which I did. When I gave the document to one of the officers, he told me to sit and wait. Moments later, he handed me over to three men, promising me that they were going to handle my case, but they instead led me to a group of about ten others who handcuffed me, and put me a white pick-up and took me to a place I didn’t know,” he recounted.
Blindfolded with a mask, Munezero didn’t realise that he had been taken to CMI’s offices in Mbuya, a Kampala suburb.
He stayed there for a number of days which he cannot be able to count since he would spend a number of hours in darkness – unable to tell if it is day or night.
“On the first day, they told me to take off my shoes and also ordered me to make a statement. They took me to a room that had a toilet inside and tied me on metal just near the toilet and I was in a position where I was on my knees. I was in this situation for many days. My ribs were hurting, in addition I developed a sore on one of my knees,” narrated an emotional Munezero.
“The pain was much, and I would cry out loud in the night.”
“I don’t know how to paint for you the situation in words, but I suffered. I prayed to the Lord to cleanse me all my sins so that I would die without sin.”
Sometimes, he would be ordered in the morning to clean some toilets in the facility, which he did while limping.
Narcisse Ukwigize, another released Rwandan, also hinted on the tough situations he faced in CMI’s Mbuya offices.
“Inside there you wish to die,” he said.
“Where you sleep it is very cold, some people are beaten, others are not – but even if you are not beaten, the life is still bad. In my life, I had never slept on bare tiles, until I was in Mbuya. You get exposed to coldness, and you feel like you have developed pneumonia,” he said.
“There was a medic that always came every morning to check on us and see how we were doing, and if one was sick, he would give them drugs.”
Like Munezero, Ukwigize was also arrested this year. He spent about a week in the CMI facility where he was interrogated mainly in connection with alleged espionage.
Ansiira Ukwitegetse shared a story of how she and her husband were jailed in the same CMI facility for about three weeks, beaten, and given awful accommodation facilities.
Meanwhile, Uganda also handed over to Rwanda two men wanted for the deadly attack by RUD-Urunana militia on Kinigi, Musanze District on the night of October 3-4, 2019.
According to Marcellino Bwesigye, the Acting Commissioner for Inspection and Legal Services at Uganda’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, the two had been in Uganda’s detention facilities and had been convicted by competent courts and were due for deportation.
The duo, Kabayija Seleman and Fidel Nzabonimpa, fled to Uganda after Rwanda’s security forces neutralised the attackers, killing 19 of them and capturing five others.
Speaking to the media, Kabayija, 37, and Nzabonimpa, 20, said that on the day of the attacks, they retreated to Uganda, having faced a fierce counter-battle from the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF).
Both said they were lured to join RUD- Urunana by people that deceived them of jobs while in Uganda, only to lead them into a militia group that was running bases in the DRC with intent to destabilise Rwanda.
Meanwhile, Government of Rwanda on Wednesday February 19 welcomed the release of the 13 nationals and deportation of the two terrorist suspects by Uganda, it said in a statement.
The Government recalled that it had already terminated the prosecution of 17 Ugandan citizens and released three who have completed their sentences.
These developments are part of a broader effort to normalise ties between Rwanda and Uganda under a deal signed in August 2019 in Luanda under the facilitation of Angola and DR Congo.
Uganda’s handover of the Rwandan nationals on Tuesday was in line with commitments made when the Ad Hoc Commission between the two countries on the implementation of the Luanda Memorandum of Understanding held its third meeting, in Kigali, last Friday.
It also came ahead of Friday’s talks between Presidents Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda due to be held at the Gatuna border crossing.