Two Rwandans who were illegally arrested and detained in Uganda before they returned home last Saturday have said that it remains dangerous for Rwandans to travel to neighbouring Uganda.
Celestin Maniraguha, 39, is from Gakenke District in Northern Province while Moses Rusa, 64, hails from Kicukiro District in the City of Kigali.
While the former travelled to Uganda to work in bricklaying and transportation right after Easter this year, he is still shocked that he was accused of espionage and detained for about a month and a half in illegal detention centres in Kisoro and Mbarara (Western Uganda) as well as at the Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) offices in Kampala.
He said that when he went back to his job in Kisoro, his boss refused to pay him for his services and he instead called the police to report a Rwandan spy in the country.
“I was accused of spying for Rwanda,” he said, warning other Rwandans against travelling to the neighbouring country.
After he was tortured in different ways, such as slapping him and keeping him in an underground prison cell, Maniraguha was released without being charged in court and sent back to Rwanda.
As for Moses Rusa, he had gone to visit his 100-year old paternal uncle in Rwentobo (Western Uganda) and on June 26, 2019 he was arrested while boarding a bus back to Rwanda.
He was accused of spying and questioned about his identity and professional qualifications and then taken to jail at CMI’s Mbuya Military Barracks in Kampala.
“In jail, we would sleep on the floor in a small room,” he said in an interview with journalists in Kigali on Tuesday.
He added: “Praying hard is what protected us. Otherwise, we went through a lot of psychological torture wondering whether we would ever go back home”.
During his recent stay in Uganda where he had spent three days before he was arrested, Rusa observed that Rwandans who cross to Uganda from Rwanda are arrested but Rwandans who normally live in Uganda are generally not harassed.
Though he wasn’t tortured very much in jail, he said that torture threats were always there and he would often pray in order to stay safe from abuse.
“I didn’t have money and didn’t have a lawyer; I only prayed to be spared from torture,” he said.
A retired teacher and former journalist, Rusa said that he was released from the Ugandan prison without appearing in court and simply sent back to Rwanda.
Now that he is free and happy back home, his biggest prayer is for Ugandan authorities to stop harassing Rwandans who cross the border to visit their friends or do business.
“I am praying so that our two countries can restore their good relations like in the past,” he said.
Then he sent a warning to all Rwandans who may be thinking about travelling to Uganda.
“Those who have plans to go to Uganda should postpone them for now and resume travels when God reopens the way,” he said.
The Rwandan government in March issued an advisory against travel to Uganda, saying that hundreds of Rwandan citizens had been arrested and were languishing in mostly un-gazetted detention centres in Uganda.
Most of those who have been deported previously have narrated how they were picked up from public buses, homes, or churches, by mostly armed plain-clothes security agents only to be detained for months without trial and with no access to consular services.
Kigali also accuses Kampala of hosting and facilitating elements and armed groups seeking to destabilise Rwanda, a charge the latter denies.