Uganda has released another batch of Rwandans ahead of the 4th Quadripartite Summit set to bring together President Paul Kagame and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Kaguta Museveni this Friday at the Gatuna/Katuna Common border.
Uganda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa said the release of 13 people on Tuesday, who follow another 9 who were released at the beginning of January is a ‘good gesture’ towards the normalization of relations between the two countries.
A statement by the Ugandan Government said that the release of the 13 follows a series of meetings in Angola, Kampala and Kigali, including the most recent meeting of the Ad Hoc Commission in Kigali, on February 14, which was aimed at laying ground for the Friday summit.
“At the last meeting which took place in Kigali, on February 14, 2020, a lot of progress was realized in identifying concrete steps that needed to be taken on both sides in order to consolidate the rebuilding of goodwill as envisaged in the Luanda MoU,”
“Arising from these discussions, and as further gesture of goodwill, the Uganda Government has decided to release 13 more Rwandan nationals, in addition to the 9 that were released on the 8th of January 2020,” a statement said.
According to the Ugandan government, the released include Ntirushwa Maboko, Jean Bosco Habumugisha and Narcisse Ukwigize. The trio were released with their respective wives, Ancilla Ukwitegetse, Christine Mukamazima and Hyacinthe Dusengeyezu.
The statement further 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 categorically denied her citizens are engaged in acts of espionage as the Ugandan government alleges but they are rather ordinary Rwandans who went to Uganda legally and through known borders.
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 released also include Seleman Kabayija and Fidel Nzabonimpa who were under trial in the military General Court Martial on charges of illegal possession of firearms. The charges were dropped by the UPDF Court.
Minister Kutesa said that the release of the 13 and the previous 9 does not mean that they are innocent of the charges they were facing but rather an act of goodwill by the Ugandan government.
“It is simply an option the Government of Uganda has chosen in order to facilitate the normalization of the relations in the context of the Luanda process,” Kutesa said.
He said that the individuals will be handed over to Rwanda officials on Tuesday evening and said that Uganda remains committed to the implementation of the Luanda Agreement.
He also said that it is Kampala’s expectation that the deported individuals do not return to Uganda and that “most importantly, it is Uganda’s expectation that Rwanda will reciprocate the goodwill gesture by addressing the concerns Uganda has raised, including Ugandans incarcerated in Rwanda, within the Luanda framework, which require immediate attention,”
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 gesture of releasing some a positive step.
President Kagame however has in particular decried the manner in which Rwandans are treated in Uganda, including subjecting them to torture, lengthy periods in jail without trial and unceremoniously deporting them regardless of entering Uganda illegally and the existence of the free movement of people and goods.
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.
The anticipation is high ahead of the Friday meeting which will also be attended by facilitators from Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).