As news story headlines detailing illegal detention, torture and traumatization of innocent Rwandan nationals going about their businesses, including transiting passengers, atrocities which are perpetrated by Ugandan security agencies, largely the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), observers have been wondering whether this abuse and outrage is ever going to end.
For those who are, understandably worried that it has been going on for far too long, a simple reflection on the conduct of the regime in Kampala and its intelligence outfits, particularly the CMI, over the last couple of decades, and their long and recorded history of mistreatment and persecution of innocent Rwandans, does not give any reasonable prospect for optimism.
Perhaps the Wednesday July, 24th shock and awe attack on unsuspecting worshippers in a church in Kampala, was the most dramatic designated to attract media attention and publicity for maximum effect.
It was clearly planned and calculated to send terror and shockwaves among the Rwandan community in Uganda, as well as nationals themselves, as frightened testimonies of Ugandan residents of the neighbourhood reveal.
The church was targeted precisely because it was known to be frequented by Rwandan worshippers according to eye witnesses.
For Rwandans, being hunted down everywhere, including churches brings back traumatising flash backs and horror memories of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
The message is as clear today as was in 1994: Nowhere is it safe for you; not even in the House of God.
Like in all attacks, there are going to be victims of mistaken identity and the raids in the church, last week in Kampala was no exception, as detailed in the account of a traumatised Ugandan bystander: “I was arrested and taken to the car where I was asked whether I was Munyarwanda. I told them I was Munyankore and a Ugandan citizen, but they didn’t believe me. I was later released after a senior army officer intervened”. Daily Monitor, July 25, 2019.
This woman was being rounded up precisely because someone in the attacking squad believed she “was a Munyarwanda” not because she was a suspect in any crime; just on the basis that same CMI profiler had zeroed in on her as a Munyarwanda. She was not.
This, indeed, demonstrates the importance of the Government of Rwanda’s February 2019 advisory asking its nationals to avoid travelling to Uganda.
It puts a lie to Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kuteesa’s cynical spin earlier this year; that any law-abiding Rwandan shouldn’t have anything to fear.
May he should tell his fellow Munyankore at the Church in Kibuye, Rubaga what crime she had committed, to be subjected to those petrifying hours of interrogation by those “mean looking” CMI soldiers.
Ugandan political rulers have had a long and troubling record of targeting Rwandans for a whole range of primitive and opportunistic reasons.
Yoweri Museveni’s track record is certainly unparalleled, given that he has been around longer than any of his predecessors.
In September 1982, President Milton Obote, whose Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) had stolen an election two years earlier and subsequently sworn as head of state, ordered the expulsion of Banyarwanda.
According to Roger Winter, then Director of the United States Office for Refugees, “Beginning October 1, teams of local officials, members of the Youth wing of UPC and Special Forces of the police attacked Banyarwanda homes”.
In the same issue of June 1983 of Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine, Mr Rogers goes on to point out that Obote’s motivations for targeting Banyarwanda were “greed, hatred...hunger for power and short-sighted politics”.
Indeed, President Museveni shares these same traits with Milton Obote.
In Museveni’s case, though, “hunger for power” does not seem to have borders and this has in turn created this obsession to dominate Rwanda that is evidently spinning out of control.
Rwandans who, for one reason or another, find themselves in Uganda, including the worshippers at the church in Kibuye are paying the price for their country’s firm resistance to Museveni arrogant ambition to treat Rwanda as his client state.
Indeed news media reports indicate that the church was targeted after its members turned down efforts by the Rwandan National Congress and their CMI handlers who had approached them seeking to recruit them into the (RNC).
Now that’s how far Museveni is prepared to go with his futile efforts to destabilize Rwanda out of a mountain of accumulated anger and frustration for his failure to treat Rwanda as his own fiefdom.
Unfortunately President Museveni and his CMI’s mistreatment and torture of Rwandans is an atrocity that has pervaded decades and all indications are that it’s not about to abate anytime soon.
The violence and torture perpetrated against Rwandans in Uganda today, is a replay of what was going on way back in 2002.
For those who think Museveni started his efforts to destabilize Rwanda only yesterday, all you need is look at available public record.
The history of this obsession and the targeting of Rwandans shows that even after decades the playbook remains the same, the players are largely the same even the false accusations have not changed.
Henry Tumukunde is one individual who has notoriously featured for his overzealous involvement in the torture of innocent Rwandans.
He was reported by news publications last year, to have personally taken part in the physical assault of Rene Rutagungira, an innocent Rwandan national, who has been languishing in a Ugandan jail, without trial.
Indeed, until recently, as a minister in charge of security, he was an active patron and handler of top RNC leaders.
Writing in the then Monitor of 5 July 2002, Andrew Mwenda, yes Andrew Mwenda, stated that “As at Tuesday, eight Banyarwanda – were illegally being held in safe houses reportedly on the orders of ISO boss Henry Tumukunde.
Mwenda ends the article with a chillingly familiar conclusion “Today security agencies see every other Munyarwanda…as a Kagame spy. It is like 1982 all over again!" This was 2002.
As they say, the more things change the more they remain the same – at least in Uganda’s case. Museveni’s slogan is no change, and in the case of his obsession with Rwanda he has been consistent.