Uganda urged to release illegally held Rwandans as body of slain suspected smuggler is repatriated

Joseph Singirankabo (in red t-shirt), a relative to Nkerenke, the man who was killed in Tabagwe Sector in Nyagatare District last Friday after he resisted arrest. Nkerenke's body was delivered by Ugandan officials including an area legislator at Gatuna Border Post on May 27, 2019. Emmanuel Kwizera

Rwandan officials yesterday renewed the call to their Ugandan counterparts to release Rwandans who are illegally detained in different ungazetted places on its territory.

The call was made yesterday as Ugandan officials handed over the body of slain Rwandan who died in a fracas with Rwandan security forces after he resisted arrest having been intercepted smuggling goods to into Rwanda.

 The body was received from Gatuna border post, in Gicumbi District by a Rwandan delegation led by Nyagatare District Mayor Claudian Mushabe.

Addressing his colleagues from Uganda, Mushabe used the opportunity to ask them to stop illegally detaining Rwandans, even as they handed over the body of a Rwandan who was unfortunately killed as part of normal security and law enforcement exercise.

The mayor said that it was sad Rwandan officials were receiving a dead body of a Rwandan when those who are still alive are still languishing in jail.

Rwanda has previously said that hundreds of nationals are being held in different ungazetted places in Uganda, including military barracks.

Mushabe explained to Ugandan officials, who were led by Woman MP for Rukiga District, Caroline Kamusiime, that illegal trade is the reason behind the death of the Rwandan trader and one Ugandan resident.

“It’s good that you have brought us the deceased but it would be much better if you can also bring us some more Rwandans who are alive and are being held in your territories. There are so many people there,” he said.

The mayor told the Ugandan officials that even on Saturday two Rwandans were abducted in Uganda and he condemned the practice.

“The way you have brought us the dead body it is better you bring us those who are alive too. It can make us happy on both sides if it’s done,” he told the Ugandan officials.

Rwanda’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe, reiterated the same message in a tweet he sent shortly after the deceased’s body was handed over.

“We expect similar handover ceremonies for a hundred Rwandans illegally detained and regularly tortured in CMI (Uganda's Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence) cells. This would show that Ugandan authorities don’t care about the life of outlaws only, but also care about the life of law-abiding Rwandans,” he wrote in a tweet.

The deceased, whose body was identified by his family members, is a local small cross-border trader named Pierre Nkerenke who was living in Nkoma village in Tabagwe Sector of Eastern Province's Nyagatare District. 

He was riding a motorcycle in his home area when he resisted calls by Rwandan security officers to stop, which resulted into his shooting as he was a suspected smuggler.

Nkerenke was suspected to have been smuggling into the country used apparel (Caguwa) from Uganda and he reportedly decided to turn aggressive towards the security personnel and got reinforcement from machete-wielding backers from across the border in Uganda.

As a result, Nkerenke, who has since been mistakenly identified by Ugandan officials as John Baptist Kyerengye, was shot dead in the ensuing fracas, together with a Ugandan identified as Alex Nyesiga, who was among the mob backing the Rwandan smuggler.

Uganda’s Woman MP for Rukiga District where the porous border from where the deceased were shot is part of, Caroline Kamusiime, said that she wasn’t aware of illegal detention of Rwandans.

She called for cooperation between the two countries’ officials to tighten security on both sides of the border.

“One thing I can promise you is that we are ready to cooperate with you,” she told the Rwandan mayor, promising to inform herself more on the reports about illegally detained Rwandans in Uganda.

She also said that her home region would tighten security at the border with Rwanda and also nurture more cooperation with Rwandan officials to fight crime.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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