Closed. Katuna border post has remained closed since last year. After a year of grinding border conflict between Uganda and Rwanda, the two neighbours will hold a meeting tomorrow over the dispute. PHOTO BY ROBERT MUHEREZA
By PATIENCE AHIMBISIBWE & RISDEL KASASIRA
After a year of grinding border conflict between Uganda and Rwanda, the two neighbours swapped dozens of prisoners in a long-anticipated exchange that authorities hailed as “the first step to end the dispute.”
After Uganda released a total of 22 Rwandans who were facing charges of espionage and handed them back to Rwandan diplomats in Kampala, Kigali reciprocated by deporting 19 Ugandans they labelled “prohibited immigrants”.
The suspects, who had been imprisoned in Rwanda on undisclosed charges were released this month between 13 and 17th.
Authorities in Rwanda, without providing details, also revealed in a statement how they had terminated prosecution of 17 Ugandan citizens and released three who have completed their sentences. Daily Monitor has, however, obtained exclusive details on 19 deported Ugandans.
In a statement issued yesterday by Rwanda’s foreign affairs ministry, the Kigali government welcomed the release of 13 Rwandans who were on trial in Uganda for various charges but raised three more demands which, according to the statement, were supposed to be implemented by February 20.
“Government of Rwanda reiterates that there are urgent issues that were agreed with Uganda during the last Ad hoc Commission meeting held in Kigali, and officially transmitted on 15 February 2020 through Note Verbally no 0692 and that were to be responded to by 20 February 2020,” the statement reads in part.
As part of the demands, Rwanda wants Uganda to withdraw a passport it had allegedly given to a Rwandan exile, Ms Charlotte Mukankusi, a lady who President Museveni said he had met in March 2019 in a letter to his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame.
Rwanda also wants Uganda to investigate Self-Worth Initiative, a human rights organisation based in Kampala that has been critical of Rwanda over alleged human rights abuses.
In the statement, Kigali demands: “ …. Verification of operations and fundraising activities of the following individuals: Prossy Bonabaana, Sula Nuwamanya, Dr Rukondo Rugari, Emeritthe Gahongayire, and Emmanuel Mutarambirwa, all part of RNC (Rwanda National Congress) leadership in Uganda through an NGO called the Self-Worth Initiative.”
Rwanda also claims that Uganda has not handed over two people who allegedly participated in the attack in Kinigi, Rwanda in October 2019, which left 19 people dead.
According to The New Times, Kigali confirmed
that Kabayija Seleman and Nzabonimpa Fidel were part of the deadly
attack by RUD-Urunana militia on Kinigi, Musanze District on the night
of October 3-4, 2019.
Uganda has so far handed over 22 Rwandans who have been on trial.
On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa explained that the release of the 13 Rwandans was a move to normalise relations between the two countries. He said their release “doesn’t in any way suggest that the accused are innocent of the charges for which they were being tried”.
We were unable to get a comment from Ugandan officials on Rwanda’s demands because Mr Kutesa and his deputy Okello Oryem who are authorised to speak on Rwanda matters didn’t respond to our repeated phone calls.
Rwanda has accused the Ugandan government of harbouring and supporting its dissidents under their umbrella RNC and torturing its citizens, among others.
However, Mr Museveni, in the March 2019 letter states that he refused to support Rwandan dissidents because the issues they were raising are an “internal matter of Rwanda” and that it is against the stand of the African Union for one country to interfere in the internal affairs of sister countries.
The Director of Policy and Programms at Self-Worth Initiative, Mr Sula Nuwamanya, yesterday said their organisation is a Ugandan human rights initiative that has “nothing to do with” the RNC.
“We are not and don’t need to be RNC or associate with any Rwandan opposition group to condemn the kidnap, murder and illegal repatriations of Rwandan refugees, asylum seekers or anyone that is at risk of Rwandan aggression,” Mr Nuwamanya said.
He added: “Associating us with RNC is the usual Rwandan blackmail and propaganda when they fail to be reasonable in defence of their gross human rights violations that extends beyond borders.”
Ms Boonabana, the
Executive Director of Self-worth Initiative said their organization is
not political and does not work with or for any political organization.
Her husband, Rwema Gerdeme, the cultural leader of the Banyamulenge in DR Congo was allegedly kidnapped from Uganda in 2015 and taken to Rwanda.
“Prossy is herself the victim of the Rwandan aggressive activities in Uganda. Her husband has since been incarcerated in Rwandan safe house without any due course of the law and has never received justice,” Mr Nuwamanya said.
The ad hoc commission formed in August last year in Angola to defuse tension between Uganda and Rwanda met in Kigali on Friday and recommended to Presidents Museveni and Kagame to consider reopening the border during tomorrow’s follow-up meeting at Katuna/ Gatuna.
During the same meeting, the delegations from Uganda and Rwanda also agreed that both countries respect the human rights of nationals from the either countries.
Tomorrow’s meeting will be the third since the principals signed the Luanda MoU to end tension between the two countries.
Source Daily Monitor.