Rwanda: Agony of Rwandans in Ugandan Military Torture Chambers

On January 7, this year, Moses Gakwerere defied the government's advisory against travelling to Uganda because their security is not guaranteed in that country.

Gakwerere, a resident of Taba Cell, Kanyinya Sector in Nyarugenge District went to Uganda through Kagitumba border post.

"I was used to travelling to Uganda, I had a job there so I thought I was safe as usual... I didn't give any value to the government advisory, but I have seen and faced what I don't wish any other Rwandan should go through," Gakwerere, who returned home this Friday after three months in Uganda's Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) torture chambers, narrates.

On the fateful day of March 13, Gakwerere boarded a bus from Gulu District, West Nile, where he was working as a cattle keeper, as he headed back home.

"The bus experienced a mechanical fault as we reached Luwero, I went in the nearby restaurant to find what to eat after such a long distance as the bus was being fixed. While in the restaurant I received a call from my wife, so we had a conversation in Kinyarwanda," Gakwerere says.

As he was eating, two men, who heard him speaking Kinyarwanda approached and greeted him in the same dialect, little did Gakwerere know that his life was in danger.

"I felt home when I saw my fellow Rwandans, we went on with the chat, they asked me where I was coming from and I told them the whole story and how I was going back home in Rwanda to check on my family."

"They had a car and our bus was still being fixed. They told me they were also headed to Kampala, so they offered me a lift. I entered their car but I don't know what they did to me because the next thing I saw I was in a military barracks which I later learnt was in Kireka (in Kampala) where I was subjected to interrogation and torture from time-to-time by various."

Like many other Rwandans before him, who have faced the same harassment and torture to confess things they don't know or have never been part of, Gakwerere was asked when he left military service and his mission in Uganda.

"I have never been in the military although being a soldier is not criminal, but it's like I was telling deaf people. They took everything I had, I was left barefooted and half-naked and they put me in another vehicle, took me to another military barracks which I also came to know was Makindye military barracks where I found many other Rwandans - about 40 of them--they told me how they were beaten at Kireka and left for dead. Some of them couldn't stand, others had severe and uncovered wounds, they were in severe pain and hungry."

All of them were kidnapped and tortured by people speaking Kinyarwanda, who are members of RNC, which is being facilitated by Uganda's military to recruit people with a mission to destabilize Rwanda.

RNC headed by Kayumba Nyamwasa is responsible for several terror attacks in Rwanda between 2010 and 2014, which killed many people and left many others injured.

Gakwerere says he's the first Rwandan to be released from the CMI torture chambers at Makindye.

While there, he says he asked about his "espionage mission" in Uganda, to compare security forces in the two countries and psychologically and physically tortured to confess that he was a spy or to "join them if I wanted to stop the pain and survive."

"They told me that if I wanted to live I have to join them, I asked them who they are... you brought me in a Ugandan military barracks and you are Rwandans, and this angered them more because, may be, I was giving them answers they didn't want to hear."

"What I saw there is drama, it hurts to see foreigners telling you that they have nothing against you, that you are innocent, they tell you that Rwandans who are part of RNC view those who don't want to join them as criminals until you believe, say and do what they want. You can observe that some Ugandan soldiers like Baganda and those from the north are being used, they frankly tell you that their hands are tied... they are also peeved with the whole mess. They are the ones who at times help you to contact your people."

Gakwerere recalls a captain, a Munyankole from southwestern Uganda, who used to visit him. On June 18, this captain called him out, asked him if he would go back to Rwanda if he is released.

"I told him that I was kidnapped and tortured as I was going back home, so what would stop me from saving my life and go back home if I am released."

The captain picked him the following day, drove him to Kireka barracks where he picked leftovers of his belongings and found his way to Rwanda's High Commission in Kampala, which facilitated him to come back home. He was robbed of over 700, 000 shillings (about Rwf160, 000).

"Anywhere in Uganda you are not safe. On streets, in a restaurant, bar, in a vehicle or anywhere you are not safe if you are a Rwandan and worse still if you don't want to join RNC," says Gakwerere.

He adds: "I defied my government's advisory, I lost everything, faced endless torture during the time I was detained. I count myself lucky to be here today, many others are still suffering and many other Rwandans will also suffer if they don't heed what our leaders are telling them."

"Let me point out that our government is right to advise us not to travel to Uganda because I have faced and seen what they always tell us; if you are home (Rwanda) stay home, you are safe and secure; you cross that border just know that your life will be in danger wherever you will be. Stay home and just pray that hundreds of other innocent Rwandans suffering in Ugandan military prisons will find their way back home to be with their families."

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