The joint Ad hoc Commission set up to help implement the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Rwanda and Uganda last month in Luanda, Angola holds its first meeting Monday, September 16, as both sides seek to address issues that have strained relations over the last few months.
The commission, which is comprised of senior officials from both countries, meets at a time when Uganda’s continued harassment and torture of Rwandans have further been thrust into the limelight after one of the torture victims succumbed to his injuries.
Silas Hategekimana, 43, died on August 31 and the autopsy report showed that he “had a 5th right rib fracture associated with silent old hemothorax and right lung abrasion. There was also the presence of right kidney laceration and a punctiform spleen wound with mild old hemoperitoneum.”
His family wrote to the Rwandan government demanding that a criminal investigation be launched into his death and the latter has subsequently asked Kampala to investigate the case.
Hategekimana, who was first arrested by Uganda’s security operatives along with other members of the Pentecostal ADEPR Church from a Kampala suburb on May 25, 2019 before he was deported on June 12, is one of the hundreds of Rwandan nationals who have been arbitrarily arrested and tortured by Ugandan army on fictitious accusations of espionage or illegal entry.
Most importantly, the majority of them have not only been denied consular and legal services, and family visits, but they have also not been produced before any court of law.
As the ad hoc commission meets today Rwandans will be expecting nothing but honest and frank discussions and commitment to releasing hundreds of innocent Rwandans languishing in detention centers across Uganda, as well as guarantees that Rwandans will again be safe while in Uganda. Equally important is justice in such cases as Hategekimana’s and other victims.
Such concrete steps would pave way for other aspects such as trade and cross-border travel to be back to normal.
It is needless to say that relations between Rwanda and Uganda are too important to be sacrificed at the altar of political intrigues and dissident sympathies.
Indeed, the peoples of both countries will hope that both sides will do everything possible to normalize ties – and what happens in Monday’s meeting and thereafter will go a long way in determining where we go from here.