Tension builds up between Uganda, Rwanda over citizens’ arrests

Saturday December 23 2017

A Rwanda-Uganda border at Kagitumba.

A Rwanda-Uganda border at Kagitumba. Simmering tensions are beginning to affect movement of people between the two neighbours. PHOTO | NMG 

By EDMUND KAGIRE
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Tensions between Rwanda and Uganda have escalated over the arrest of citizens across their common border.

Ugandan traders have protested the arrest of a Ugandan money changer by Rwandan authorities.
The mayor of Katuna Nelson Baba Nshangabasheija said that the Ugandan, Justus Tweyongyere was “detained” after he deposited money at a bank in Gatuna.

“It has been three days and the Rwandan authorities are not providing information on his whereabouts. All they are saying is that he is in safe hands but they don’t say where, when he will be released or what he is accused of. Even his relatives went there and they were not allowed to see him,” Mr Nshangabasheija told The EastAfrican.

He said this was the second time that Mr Tweyongyere has been arrested in Rwanda. He was previously arrested on November 20, but later released after questioning.

Arrests

The spokesperson of Rwanda National Police, ACP Theos Badege said the Ugandan businessman and a Rwandan partner were arrested for conducting illegal money-related activities inside Rwanda and will be charged.

“A Ugandan money changer and a Rwandan were arrested on December 16 on charges of illegal exchange of money and forgery. They will be prosecuted,” said ACP Badege, adding that the Ugandan High Commission in Kigali was informed of the case.

Kigali has formally written to Kampala, calling for investigations into what it calls continued targeted arrests of Rwandan citizens in Uganda.

Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Uganda Maj Gen Frank Mugambage said Kigali has formally communicated to Kampala seeking an explanation on the ongoing arrests and reports of “Rwanda’s enemies” operating on Uganda’s soil.

“We have formally written and verbally communicated our concerns and sought explanations to that end. We are waiting for answers,” Gen Mugambage told the media in Kigali.

Issues of concern

According to information obtained by The EastAfrican, Rwanda wants Uganda to explain the ongoing arrests targeting Rwandans inside Uganda, some of whom are being held incommunicado. A formal inquiry was issued to Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on December 12.

While Rwanda’s envoy to Uganda maintained that these are formal diplomatic procedures countries conduct to normalise relations, he said that there are issues of concern between the two countries which require explanation including Uganda accommodating fugitives wanted by Rwanda.

Kigali maintains that Uganda is offering a safe haven for members of Rwanda National Congress, an opposition organisation led by Lt Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa, to operate and conduct subversive activities targeting Rwanda.

“The Republic of Rwanda wishes to call the highest attention by Ugandan authorities, and request remedy without delay to the following; Multiple unjustified arrests, failure to notify the diplomatic representation of Rwanda in Uganda and mistreatment of Rwandan citizens in Uganda in the last several months,” the diplomatic note seen by The EastAfrican reads in part.

Unjustifiable reasons

Kigali says that several Rwandan citizens have been arrested in Uganda without any justifiable reasons. They include Rene Rutagungira, who was arrested in October and is facing espionage charges. Uganda says Rutangugira colluded with Ugandan police officers to kidnap Rwandan refugees in Uganda, who are illegally deported to Rwanda.

Others are Fidele Gatsinzi, who had reportedly travelled to visit family but was released last weeks and James Bayingana, Byaruhanga Nduwamungu and several others. Most of the detained individuals are yet to be arraigned in court.

Rwanda says that it has reliable information that RNC operatives are actively recruiting members inside Uganda and transporting them to military training camps with the intent of attacking Rwanda.

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