Four Rwandans who were illegally detained, badly tortured for months, were on Saturday deported from Uganda.
The four have been identified as; Emmanuel Ndayambaje, Alex Ukijijwenimana, Patrick Shingiro, and René Bizumuremyi.
They were separately arrested by Ugandan security operatives and detained in different locations, mainly military barracks.
They were all handed over to Rwandan authorities at Kagitumba border in Nyagatare District.
Despite being picked separately and at different times, the common denominator is that they were illegally arrested, tortured and harassed.
They were all accused of being Rwandan government spies.
“I worked in Mbarara where I had been since last year. I was working for a member of the Ugandan parliament. I was arrested by security officers for no reason. I was taken to Makenke Barracks and badly beaten,” Ndayambaje said.
Makenke Barracks in Mbarara - a district in western Uganda.
Later he was informed that he was arrested for being a "Rwandan spy which makes no sense as there is no truth to that", Nfayambaje said.
“They repeatedly beat me up under my feet and on the knees. It was real torture. I was later transferred to Mbuya Barracks where I also endured torture and harassment,” he said.
Mbuya in the capital Kampala.
“Simply, in Uganda, being a Rwandan is a crime itself,” he added.
Ndayambaje, a father of two who hails from Karama sector in Nyagatare District, said that once he was arrested, his Ugandan employer never followed up to help process his case through the justice system.
“I spent two months in two separate barracks; I asked military officers to call my boss and get information about me but they wondered whether he was not aware of my being detained,” he said.
Ndayambaje pointed out that there are many other Rwandan nationals who are being detained and are undergoing torture in both the facilities where he was held.
He recalls several names of Rwandans who are illegally detained in Mbuya Barracks; Evode Habimana, Eric Mugiraneza, Nelson Mugabo. He mentioned others he knew only by one name including Masudi, Rukundo, Simon, and Venant.
“There are about 70 Rwandans held inside Mbuya barracks only. They are living miserable lives and in inhumane conditions. This particular person - Nelson Mugabo from Rubavu District - has been illegally detained for over 14 months. He can hardly walk. He seems physically disabled as a result of the repeated beatings,” he narrated.
Patrick Shingiro from Nyamagabe District left the country in January to visit his colleagues and see if could take advantage of the free movement of people and start a business.
This was never the case for him.
“I entered Uganda legally and met my friends who took me in for a few days. I planned to start a business. No sooner had I started looking for premises to rent than I was arrested,” he said.
“I found myself at CMI where I was immediately blindfolded and handcuffed. I found others there. I was detained in cold rooms. Here, we were grilled with questions. They accused me of being a spy and the more I denied the allegations the more I was beaten up,” he said.
CMI is the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.
Shingiro said he was moved to different facilities and at each stop, he was beaten. The beatings were a daily routine.
“We are lucky that we are now home and safe. I can't wish for anyone to experience what went through while in Ugandan detention facilities,” he added.
The stories of illegal arrests, torture, and deportations of Rwandans by Ugandan security operatives have become routine. Just last week, three more Rwandans were deported after they were tortured and harassed.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Richard Sezibera recently said that over 100 Rwandans are known to be illegally detained in Uganda and are not allowed access consular services or legal assistance among other basic human rights.
Subsequently, the government has advised nationals against traveling to Uganda until their safety there is guaranteed.