Three women deported from Uganda, recount ordeal suffered in detention

L-R: Alphonsine Musabyimana, Jeanette Nyiransengiyumva, and Veronica Ingabire speak to the media yesterday. / Courtesy

Veronica Ingabire left Rwanda in May last year, along with her husband, to visit family members but the journey was cut short.

When they arrived at Cyanika on the Ugandan side, they were asked to get out of the bus and present their travel documents, only to be arrested.

“We ordinarily crossed with our IDs but when we reached Cyanika on the side of Uganda we were arrested. Security officers (we were later told they were from CMI) said we had crossed illegally saying that we were not allowed to use IDs,” she says.

That was on May 15, 2018.

“It was then I last saw my husband, until now I have no information of his whereabouts,” she added.

Ingabire, together with other women, were then taken to Kabale Police Station and later produced before a court in Kabale where they were not allowed to plead, nor did they have legal representation.

They were after a few minutes sentenced to one year and 15 days in jail for illegal crossing.

“What was sad was that we had been using IDs to cross the border and I had my ID with me, besides, I was sentenced without  the chance to defend myself,” she said.

Torture, harassment

Ingabire says that she, and other Rwandan women who were detained in Uganda, were taken to various prisons where they were subjected to torture and harassment.

The 21-year-old mother of one was first taken to Kabale prison, then to Mbarara prison before she was brought back to Kabale where she eventually met two other ladies with whom she was deported.

“We were severely beaten and harassed just because we were Rwandans, female security officers could take us out and beat us while abusing us saying that Rwandans had no place in Uganda,” she said with tears in her eyes.

“At some point, I was taken to hospital after I was badly beaten, this happened to many other women with whom we were detained,” she adds.

Ingabire is one of three female Rwandans, who were deported from Uganda through Cyanika border on Saturday.

All of them share one common thing; torture and harassment inside Ugandan prisons.

Ingabire hopes to reunite with her two-year-old child they left in Rwanda but she does not know how she will find her husband.

“I don’t have any plan to go to Uganda again and I have no hope to see my husband again; I can only advise Rwandans not to cross to Uganda because they are not safe there,” she said.

Asked for bribe

Alphonsine Musabyimana spent one year and eight months in Ugandan prisons.

The mother of four, who hails from Gakenke District’s Rusasa Sector, said that when they arrived in Kisoro (Uganda) travelling with their IDs  which, together with other travel documents were confiscated before being suddenly told that they had entered the country illegally.

“We were arrested and spent three days at Kisoro police station before being taken to Kisoro prison, the court in Kisoro sentenced me to one year and eight months in prison after I failed to pay a bribe of Ush 1.5 million (about Rwf400,000) for me to be released,” she says.

In prison, we were beaten, harassed and subjected to forced labour, we had to trek long distances to go tilling land and were ordered to do other menial work,” she said.

She added that there are many more Rwandans being detained in Uganda, including women.

Since 2017, hundreds of Rwandans have reportedly been arrested, held incommunicado and tortured in Uganda. Over 1,000 have been deported by Uganda authorities so far, according to officials.

Some of those who have since been released have told of despicable treatment at the hands of individuals linked to the Ugandan military during their detention in ‘safe houses’ while many are still missing.

Kigali accuses Uganda of hosting and facilitating dissidents bent on destabilising Rwanda.