At around 2:11am, 13 Rwandans who were illegally detained in Uganda arrived at Kagitumba One Stop Border Post, exhausted after a long ride from the Ugandan capital and following their release on Tuesday.
The 13, who include two men who were reportedly involved in the October 3-4, 2019 deadly terror attack that was carried out by a militia group known as RUD-Urunana, in Kinigi sector, Musanze District, Northern Province, killing 14 and injuring many.
The Government of Uganda on Tuesday following the release of the 13, said the two men, Seleman Kabayija and Fidel Nzabonimpa, who were under trial in the military General Court Martial, handed themselves over to the Ugandan army with their guns but it does not mention their links to RUD-Urunana.
Kigali maintains that the October attack which saw majority of the members of the militia killed was linked to Uganda, particularly the Minister of Regional Cooperation Dr Philemon Mateke, who Rwanda said is linked to these groups.
The 13, who include 10 men and 3 women, were released on Tuesday in what the Ugandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa called a ‘goodwill gesture’ ahead of 4th Quadripartite Summit tomorrow at Gatuna/Katuna common border.
Upon release, the 13, who include Ntirushwa Maboko, Jean Bosco Habumugisha and Narcisse Ukwigize, and their respective wives, Ancilla Ukwitegetse, Christine Mukamazima and Hyacinthe Dusengeyezu, were handed over to Rwanda’s High Commission in Kampala.
The statement by the Ugandan Minister claimed that the trio had been deported to Rwanda over espionage and security related offences in 2019 but they went back to Uganda and were rearrested.
Rwandan has consistently denied reports that her citizens are engaged in acts of espionage as the Ugandan government alleges, insisting that these are rather ordinary Rwandans who went to Uganda legally and through known borders on their personal errands only to be arrested.
Others released were categorized as individuals who are suspected of involvement in criminal activity and repeated offenders according to the government statement.
They include Eric Penzi, who Kampala says is a repeated offender of human trafficking offences, Alphonse Ahokuremeye, Bosco Gitifu, John Bosco Mugisha and Jotham Ngaruye.
The release of the duo Seleman Kabayija and Fidel Nzabonimpa, sending them to Rwanda is likely to create a new twist, confirming Rwanda’s concerns that indeed Kampala has links to the armed groups including Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and RUD-Urunana.
During the 2nd Rwanda-Uganda Ad Hoc Commission meeting in Kampala on December 13, 2019, Rwanda’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in charge of the East African Community (EAC) Amb. Olivier Nduhungirehe said that the militias who survived after launching the October 2019 attack fled to Uganda and were protect by the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF).
The attack was launched from eastern DRC, close to the Ugandan border and the Volcanoes National Park. Most of the attackers were killed. Some of the attackers were captured alive.
Revealing some details unknown before, Nduhungirehe said that following the attack, three of the attackers fled to Kisoro District in Uganda, where they stayed briefly, then were evacuated to Makenke Barracks in Mbarara District and later transferred to the CMI headquarters in Mbuya, Kampala.
An assortment of material evidence, including phone handsets, and testimonies of captured attackers, was collected.
“One Ugandan telephone number appeared to have been in contact with the attackers both before and during the attack. And this number has been found to belong to the Hon Mateke Philemon, Uganda’s Minister of State for Regional Cooperation,” Nduhugirehe told the meeting.
At the time, Rwanda’s High Commission in Uganda sent a note verbale on the issue on 14th October 2019 but it remained unanswered.
Though the two men who could vindicate Rwanda’s allegations did not speak to the press upon arrival at Kagitumba, their handover to Rwanda could open a can of worms, considering that Kigali has raised this issue with Kampala before.
Uganda said the two men were facing charges of illegal possession of firearms in the military General Court Martial but charges were dropped as a sign of goodwill.
The Government of Rwanda is yet to speak out on the latest gesture by Uganda to release the 13. Efforts to talk to Minister Nduhungirehe, who is attending the 17th National Leadership Retreat (Umwiherero) in Gabiro, Eastern Province were futile.
However in a short message, he said a statement will be released on Thursday, ahead of the Friday meeting in Gatuna/Katuna.
President Paul Kagame and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Kaguta Museveni are set to meet tomorrow Friday at the Gatuna/Katuna Common border.
The Ugandan Government said that the release of the 13 follows the most recent meeting of the Ad Hoc Commission in Kigali, on February 14, which was aimed at laying ground for the Friday summit.
Rwanda maintains that the number of Rwandans detained in Uganda is much larger than those released but both President Kagame and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta have described the previous gesture to release 9 as a positive step.
Ahead of the Friday meeting, President Kagame said at the opening of the 17th National Leadership Retreat (Umwiherero ) on Sunday that Rwanda decided to advise citizens not to go to Uganda after he personally intervened to make a case for their safety but in vain.
The Head of State also said that Uganda has made the issues between the two countries about the Gatuna border, which is not the real issue, but rather the actions of Kampala which include supporting terrorist groups fighting the government of Rwanda.
Tomorrow’s meeting which will also be attended by facilitators from Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is expected to come up with concrete decisions that will lead to the normalisation of relations between the two countries.