Uganda has handed over 9 Rwandan nationals to Rwanda’s High Commission and Immigration office today morning at the International Conference Centre. These were formally charged in 2018 of unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition, but were set free yesterday.
Yesterday, the General Court Martial released seven Rwandan nationals after withdrawing charges of abduction and illegal possession of firearms from them.
The accused persons have been under incarceration since August 2017 over different charges related to illegal possession of firearms. These were arrested from places including Isingiro, Mbarara,and Kampala Districts by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.
While addressing journalists on Wednesday afternoon, Uganda Minister for Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa said that the government withdrew the charges in line of the Uganda-Rwanda Memorandum of Understanding that was signed in Angola’s capital of Luanda.
Kutesa presented two more Rwandan nationals that were not part of the Court Martial sessions to make the number rise to nine as he handed them over to the Rwanda High Commission ahead of their repatriation today.
He said, “In line with the Luanda Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Republic of Uganda and the Republic of Rwanda on the normalization of relations between the two countries, and in the context of the goodwill being exhibited in an effort to normalize relations between the two countries, Government of Uganda has withdrawn charges of nine Rwandan nationals that were undergoing prosecution in the General Court Martial for various offences including among others unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition at the time that the cases were coming up for hearing.”
The nine have been identified as Mugabo Nelson, RTD SGT Rene Rutagungira, Etienne Nsanzabahizi, Claude Yakalemye, Emmanuel Rwamuchwo, Augustine Rutayisire, CPL Nzeyamana Herman, Munyagabe Adrien and Urayeneza Gilbert.
SGT Rutagungira was charged first . It was alleged that he used a pistol and grenades to abduct Lt. Joel Mutabazi and Jackson Kalemera, former bodyguards of Rwanda President Paul Kagame before taking them to Rwanda.
He was said to have committed the crime alongside other Ugandan Police officers including Nixon Agasirwe who are also battling similar charges in the same court.
Kutesa reiterated that Uganda is committed to the full normalization of relations between the two countries and noted that the repatriation is an act of good will.
Meanwhile, the High Commissioner of Rwanda to Uganda Major General Frank Mugambage said that Uganda should stop its principle of arbitrary arrests and that the repatriation is a step in the right direction.
Mugambage said, “This is a step in the right direction. But there are more people that have been arbitrarily arrested in the past. Even yesterday, a family approached me that their relative is missing and they suspect he could have been arrested. This is good, but we need more Rwandans released. We have given Uganda a list of names, we want to see Uganda act in the same good will.”
He added, “We also hope that this will put an end to the support of elements against Rwanda. This is the same will that will open up other activities, economic ones like the border.”
The release comes at a time of tension between Rwanda and Uganda.
Tension rose markedly in early 2019 after Rwanda closed its Gatuna and Kyanika borders and issued a travel advisory in which it strongly warned its citizens against travelling to Uganda.
Edited by David Tumusiime