Jean Claude Mucyo, a Rwandan national of 28, will never forget the night of Tuesday, 29 January 2019.
That is the day Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) abducted him, together with his employer Darius Kayobera, and Darius’s wife, Claudine.
That happened at their business premises on Musajjalumba Road in Kampala’s Rubaga suburb.
“It was around midnight and we were in my boss’s car, preparing to go home when all of a sudden, men dressed in military attire, who had come in a double cabin pickup, surrounded us,” narrates the emaciated looking Mucyo.
“They were banging on our car windows and ordering the boss and his wife to get out.”
Kayobera and his wife, like Mucyo, are Rwandan nationals.
Mucyo says the couple run a string of businesses in the Ugandan capital.
On the couple's behalf, Mucyo managed two beauty spas, all in the Rubaga suburb.
At the time, he was carrying 1.3 million shillings which is equivalent to over Rwf300,000.
He narrates that when his boss and his wife got out of the car, the soldiers immediately snapped handcuffs on them, shoving them into the waiting pickup.
“Two of them then came back and barked at me in Swahili, “Wewe mujinga unabaki kwa gari namna gani!” (You fool,why do you remain in the car?!)
Mucyo says one of them, “Gave me three severe slaps in my face while another dipped his hands in my bag, saw the money (Sh. 1.3 million) and pocketed it.”
Mucyo says he never got that money back, and the person that took it did not record it. He just stole it.
The abductors were CMI soldiers, Mucyo and the others would find out shortly.
The pattern and mode of UPDF's Military Intelligence arrest, torture and illegal detention of Rwandan citizens that has been reported previously are similar to what Mucyo and the Kayoberas' endured. It is systematic and targeting innocent civilians subjected to gross abuse of their rights.
The theft of money and property; the arrest by abduction – meaning abruptly and with no warning, violent treatment of victims, handcuffing them, shoving them into a vehicle, shoving hoods over their heads, all with no arrest warrant, and without telling the abductees what it is they are supposed to have done – all are hallmarks of CMI methodology.
“They shoved hoods, which are partly big hats, over the heads of all the three of us and drove off. We had no idea where they were taking us,” Mucyo narrates.
Mucyo narrates that Kayobera tried to plead with the abductors: “If it is me you are looking, for I am here; this is my wife, and this is my employee release them. There is no reason to take all of us.”
He pleaded with the CMI operatives that he and his wife had three little children back home (the three are 9, 6 and 3 years old respectively) who needed at least one of the parents to be with them.
The men told Kayobera that was none of their business and told him to shut up.
Clearly, Mucyo fell victim to CMI just because he was an employee of Darius Kayobera.
The businessman in turn fell victim because – he is convinced – a person that he lent money to operate a business in fact was a CMI informer.
“My boss told me, when we were in detention, that the man, called Ibrahim – a fellow Rwandan – caused problems between the two when Kayobera asked him to repay him the money he lent him,” Mucyo says.
Ibrahim wrote Kayobera a check that bounced.
Kayobera through his friends learnt that Ibrahim was a CMI informer. He would resort to telling CMI that Kayobera was a ‘Kigali spy’.
“That is how we ended up in the hands of CMI,” Mucyo shakes his head, in disbelief.
One of CMI’s methodology is just acting on information with zero attempt to verify it.
When the vehicle stopped they realised they were at Mbuya, the headquarters of UPDF.
“We did not immediately recognise this place, but we would find out from other detainees that it was the CMI head office,” the weak-looking Mucyo narrates.
Other Rwandan victims of the place, such as Roger Donne Kayibanda have previously described how once there, they order one to take off their belt and shoes, and to hand over property like wallets, watch, and portable thing.
That happened to Mucyo, Kayobera and his wife.
“When one of the men saw Kayobera’s phone, he threateningly asked him for his mobile money pin code. There was 800,000 shillings on the boss’s account and they made a transaction and withdrew the money,” Mucyo says.
“Then they took boss’s wife away to the women’s place of detention, and then took me and boss to a corridor, telling us that’s where we would stay!”
Mucyo describes the torture that followed.
“An officer came deep in the night and barked, ‘You Mucyo, come here!’ A soldier came and shoved me upstairs – still with my hood on – and took me to what they call the statement room”.
The young Rwandan says the interrogating officer told him to tell him everything about himself: where he was born, when, where he went to school, why he came to Uganda.
“I told him everything. When I was done, all of a sudden the man barked at me ‘I want you to tell me the truth, who sent you to Kampala and what did they send you to do?!”
“I said I had told him everything. “I said I only came to do business and no one sent me,” Mucyo replied. The man told the soldiers to take me downstairs, for “some special treatment”.
He narrates that two soldiers dragged him into a dungeon and proceeded to beat him up, kicking and punching him, in the ribs, in the stomach everywhere.
Then, he says, the men took me upstairs to another office.
“There, the officer spoke to me in fluent Kinyarwanda. He told me, ‘Mucyo, bite! (Hi) The only thing that will save you here is the truth!’ He too ordered me to tell him everything about myself. Afterwards the man said, menacingly, “Why don’t you say the truth that it is Rwanda that sent you here?!”!
Mucyo told him nothing like that happened.
“He then ordered the soldiers to come take me ‘upstairs’”, says Mucyo.
Upstairs, there was another man, another Rwandan, Mucyo says. The two soldiers ordered me to take off my clothes.
There was a bathtub in the room upstairs, full of ice water. They told him to lie in the water, up to his neck.
Then after a few minutes, as he was shivering and shaking, they told him to step out of the tub.
Then as Mucyo watched, they told the other Rwandan to sit in a metallic chair next to a wall. One of the men got hold of a couple of wires that were sticking out of a wall socket.
The other ordered the Rwandan to stick his feet out. “The man with the wire suddenly shoved them onto the soles of the man’s feet.”
Mucyo says the Rwandan leaped up with a piercing scream, eyes bulging, and came thudding down on the floor.
“You see that”, one of the torturers told Mucyo, “that is what happens when you do not tell the truth!”
Mucyo says they then took him downstairs, as he was shaking with fear.
He says one of his fellow prisoners, another Rwandan called Damascene Rugengamanzi, advised him to bribe an officer to save himself from further torture.
Mucyo describes how he did exactly that. He called one of the officers that regularly came down the dungeons, and offered him half a million shillings.
“I gave him the contacts of my friend that stayed with me in Mengo. The officer also got me a paper and pen and I sent written instructions to my friend to give the officer the money.”
That probably saved the young man. The beatings lessened. After three months at Mbuya, CMI transferred him to its Kireka post.
The story Mucyo tells further reveals the intricate relationship between CMI and Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC.
The officer that spoke fluent Kinyarwanda to him, Mucyo is convinced, is an RNC operative.
The prisoner he was handcuffed with, Damascene, kept urging him “to tell the CMI torturers that he was ready to join Kayumba’s army”.
“That is the only thing that will save you, otherwise these men will torture you until they break your bones,” Mucyo said, quoting his cell-mate.
It would seem this Damascene Rugengamanzi himself must have undergone the same torture and was ready to be recruited into RNC, Mucyo thinks.
In the end, he was adamant that nothing would ever make him join the terrorists, not even death would!
“Then one morning, the officer I had given money appeared in the doorway of the Kireka jail and told me to step outside. They were deporting me to Rwanda.
“That was this month, last Saturday on 6 April 2019. They dumped me at Kagitumba border post. On his deportation papers they had written, “illegal entry”, though he was in Uganda lawfully,” he says.
They had also robbed him of all his money, and he had nothing left on him when he was dumped at the border.
Kayobera and Claudine still languish in CMI detention, held incommunicado, and have not been produced in court up to now.
They have not been allowed consular access.
Their children have been deprived of parental care, and endure the distress of missing a mother and father.
People wonder when such lawless abductions, arrests and torture of innocent Rwandans will ever come to an end in Uganda.