Arrests expected to test Kigali-Kampala relations

Saturday October 28 2017

Rwandan President Paul Kagame (left) and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni. PHOTO | URUGWIRO

By The EastAfrican

The arrest and arraignment of senior police officers before a Uganda army court has revealed how uneasy relations are between Ugandan security agencies and how this may have a bearing on relations with some neighbouring countries.

Last Friday, Senior Commissioner of Police Joel Aguma, Senior Superintendent of Police Nixon Karuhanga Agasirwe, Detective Assistant of Police Benon Atwebembeire, Detective Assistant Maganda James, Detective sergeant Abel Tumukunde, Special Police Constable Faisal Katende, Detective Corporal Amon Kwarisiima, Rene Rutagungira a Rwandan national and Bahati Mugenga a Congolese national were charged with kidnap.

The police officers were rounded up in an operation led by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence in an operation that has gripped the country on the apparent orders of President Yoweri Museveni.

READ: Uganda police bosses in military court for kidnap of Kagame's aide

The court martial alleged that on October 25, 2013 in Mpigi, they arrested and conveyed Joel Mutabazi, a former Rwandan security officer, and Jackson Kalemera without their consent to Rwanda.

Mutabazi is a former aide to Rwandan President Paul Kagame who had fled Kigali and sought refuge in Uganda. Kalemera is his brother.


Rutagungira and Mugenga are said to be operatives working on behalf of the Rwanda government. They reportedly worked with Ugandan security to corner Mutabazi in spite of the fact that he had been granted UN refugee protection.

Seeking safe haven

Once back in Kigali, Mutabazi was charged with treason and terrorism and stripped of his army rank and handed a life sentence in 2015.

The arrest of the Rwandan appears to have rubbed Kigali the wrong way coming on the back of their concerns that Kampala was not doing enough to prevent dissidents finding a safe haven in Uganda.

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Kigali, for instance, has raised complaints over businessman Tribert Rujugiro who has reportedly entered business arrangements with top Uganda government officials — a charge that representatives of his businesses have denied.

Kigali accuses Rujugiro of working with foreign-based Rwandan dissidents to destabilise the country.

Okello Oryem, Uganda’s State Minister for International Relations insisted that relations between Kampala and Kigali will not be affected by the arrests or any other developments describing as “irresponsible anyone in Kampala or Kigali who would try to take advantage of anything to try and destroy the existing warm relations between the two countries.”

Mr Oryem insisted that neither Kampala nor Kigali “will fall in the trap of people intending to take these relations back to the past.”

READ: Rwanda ‘concerned’ about Uganda hosting dissidents

Rwanda High Commissioner to Uganda Frank Mugambage said he was not aware of the arrests of the Uganda police officers or that they had been charged with a matter relating to Rwandan dissidents.

“You are giving me news... I am not aware of this,” he said before adding that if indeed the charges concerned the arrest and deportation of Mutabazi [then] “that is certainly not true, I can tell you that if it is about Mutabazi I know that the procedures that were used were the normal legal processes and established mechanisms including Interpol.”

He said mechanisms existed between the governments of Uganda and Rwanda through which they thrash out matters affecting their relations and as far as he was concerned, those remained open and healthy.