Rwanda says the release of 7 Rwandans by the army court martial in Uganda, including Rene Rutagungira, one of the first Rwandans to be arrested in Uganda, is a positive step in the normalisation of relation between the two countries.
Reports in Ugandan media indicate that 7 Rwandans who were being held on suspicion of espionage were released by court on Tuesday and will be immediately handed over to Rwanda, though Kigali is yet to receive any formal communication from Kampala.
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in charge of East African Community Amb. Olivier Nduhungirehe told KT Press that they got information through the media that the 7 have been released but by press time, the Ministry had not received communication from Uganda.
“This is a good step but it shouldn’t be about the seven. There are hundreds more still jailed in Uganda. This is not enough but it is a good gesture. We need to see all Rwandans detained in Uganda released unconditionally for this to have meaning,” Nduhungirehe said.
Nduhungirehe said releasing the 7 is a step in the right direction but Kampala should show commitment by releasing more Rwandans. Over 1, 000 Rwandans have been arrested in Uganda over the last 3 years, including Rutagungira, on allegations of engaging in acts of espionage.
Rwanda has over the years protested the arrest, detention without trial, torture and illegal deportation of ordinary Rwandans who are falsely accused of spying in Uganda on behalf of Rwanda.
The issue has been one of the outstanding issues that have led to tensions between the two countries, along with Uganda backing groups fighting the government of Rwanda, including terrorist outfit Rwanda National Congress (RNC).
“These are the two key issues Rwanda has raised with Uganda and we hope that they can be addressed and our two countries go back to enjoying good ties and celebrating peaceful co-existence before the end of this year,” Amb. Nduhungirehe said.
He said that Rwanda hopes that President Yoweri Museveni will live up to his New Year promise to work on the normalisation of relations between the two countries.
“We hope that President Museveni will follow through on his promise and New Year commitment,” Nduhungirehe said, adding that Rwanda hopes all Rwandans will be released and support to armed groups stopped.
It is not yet clear when the released Rwandans will be sent home. The case of Rutagungira has been a longstanding one with Ugandan security agencies maintained that he was a spy.
President Paul Kagame in a recent interview said that there is nothing of interest Rwanda would like to spy on Uganda –and if it had to do so, it wouldn’t use ordinary citizens who simply go to Uganda to do business and earn a living like any other East African citizens.
About 1, 430 Rwandans have been unceremoniously deported from Uganda, dumped across the border and deprived of their properties and money.
By press time, Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Uganda Maj. Gen Frank Mugambage told KT Press that the mission is yet to be given official info on the 7 Rwandans released by the court martial but confirmed the development.
“We are still following up on the matter but we are yet to get any official information but we understand they have been released,” Mugambage said, confirming that they include Rutagungira.
According to reports in the Ugandan media, the seven will be handed over to Rwanda immediately.