In an astonishing press conference, the Ugandan Minister of foreign affairs announced the release of 13 Rwandans from Ugandan custody. The release which he described as a gesture of “goodwill” causes more questions amongst those who carefully follow the Rwanda-Uganda crisis. The announcement, although a positive step, confirms the need for real, genuine political will from the Ugandan side.
At the beginning, the announcement was widely seen as a positive step but quickly turned into a case of the bizarre and weird. According to press statement, categories of the released were as follows:
A. Those who were deported for espionage and security related offences in 2019, came back in to Uganda and were rearrested.
B. Spouses of the deportees in Category A
C. Suspected of involvement in criminal activity and repeated offenders
D. Those under trial in General Court Martial for illegal possession of firearms.
The anomaly of these categories are simple and straightforward. With category B, Uganda makes a mind blowing revelation; criminal responsibility is extended to spouses and worst of all lists the wife of one Rene Rutangugira who was deported back over a month ago in January 2019. Question, what happens to their children since their parents are now deported. Calling the extension of criminal responsibility to spouse “goodwill” is also incomprehensible!
Moreover, the fact that these innocents Rwandans had not been charged in courtroom, that they had been held in undisclosed locations without access to legal or consular visits for years is a gross violation of their rights. Their release is not called goodwill, it should be called a rectification of a gross injustice.
However, this is what Rwandans have been saying and asking for; charge them or released them, don’t just hold incommunicado Rwandans for no valid reason. Perhaps the most shocking category, after the spouses category, is category D of those facing court martial for firearms possession.
Category D revealed two names, Kabayija Seleman and Nzabonimpa Fidel. Both, confessed RUD-Urunana terrorist militias retreated to Uganda after an attacks on Rwandan soil in October 2019 in Kinigi, killing 14 innocents civilians. They retreated to Uganda as their fallback plan and received the Ugandan regime protection. It is only after the Rwandan government protested and provided irrefutable proof that the goodwill gesture of handing them back to Rwanda occurs.
One really wondered further about the level of political goodwill when the Ugandan Minister casually announced that there maybe 36 or so other Rwandans still detained. It begs the question, what exactly is the Ugandan regime waiting for to release all innocents Rwandans? Are these innocent lives being held as hostages or bargaining chips?
The timing of the announcement coincided with an article from the New-Vision that claimed two Rwandans that were transferred to Butarika Hospital for mental breakdowns suffered as a consequence of torture in CMI dungeons. One cannot help but ask why Uganda requires such tremendous pressure to simply do the right thing.
If a Rwandan, or a Ugandan for that matter, commits a crime, charge them. While arrested, afford them basic rights under international law. They should be given the right to visit from families and consular services, they should be detained in a gazetted location and protected from torture.
Contrary to what the Ugandan Minister said, with the such basic rights repeatedly violated, it is clear that a deliberate targeting of Rwandans occurred in Uganda. And were it not for the pressure Uganda faced, the “goodwill gestures” would not be happening given that no valid justification has been given for the gross violations suffered by hundreds of innocents Rwandans.