Rwanda: Teen Victim Recounts Torturous Experience in Uganda Custody

16 September 2019

Just as officials from Uganda were about to arrive in Kigali on Monday for a meeting with their Rwandan counterparts on how to end the current standoff between the two countries, another Rwandan victim of the ongoing hostilities against Rwanda was dumped at the border from Uganda.

Benimana, 19, who arrived in the country on Saturday, is the latest on a long list of Rwandans who have been irregularly deported by Uganda over the last couple of months after enduring torture in military or police cells.

Just last week, 32 Rwandan nationals, most of whom were pastors of the Pentecostal ADEPR Church, were also dumped at the Kagitumba border post after spending time in detention centres.

Benimana on Monday recounted his torturous experience following his illegal arrest in Kisoro district in western Uganda last year.

Like many other Rwandans, he had travelled to Uganda to looking for job opportunities, only to be accused of illegal entry despite being in possession of necessary documents.

"When we arrived at Cyanika border my travel documents were confiscated by Ugandan officials and then I was immediately accused of illegal entry," he narrated.

Benimana said he had travelled with a friend, whom he identified as Niyonzima, who was also looking for a job. That was in September 2018.

His friend also had his travel papers taken and accused of entering Uganda illegally, he said.

Upon their arrest, they were taken to a detention centre in Kisoro before they were asked to pay Ugandan shillings 1.5 million (about Rwf370,000) for their release.

"We were many Rwandans at the detention centre, probably 30 of us, but only a few were able to pay and were let go," he said.

The others, he said, were later sentenced to 18 months in prison.

He said they were later "coerced into accepting that we had entered Uganda illegally" so the sentence could be brought down to 12 months in jail.

Benimana said that throughout their time in prison they were subjected to forced labour and other forms of torture, including regular beatings, and often went for days without food.

"I was beaten thoroughly," he said, adding that another four Rwandans were also severely beaten "because they refused to admit to what they were being forced to."

Several other victims have previously narrated how they were forced to confess they were Kigali spies, or asked to choose between joining anti-Rwanda rebels and rotting in prison cells.

Kigali has accused Uganda of illegally arresting, detaining, torturing and irregularly deporting its nationals; providing active support and harbouring dissidents and other armed groups bent on destabilising Rwanda; and acts of economic sabotage against Rwanda.

Rwanda says Ugandan leaders have held meetings with negative elements seeking to destabilise Rwanda, and even tried to unify armed groups opposed to Kigali.

In March, Ugandan President admitted to meeting senior officials of the terrorist RNC outfit led by fugitive Kayumba Nyamwa, but said the meetings at his office in Kampala were "accidental".

A UN report released in December last year confirmed that Uganda was a major source of recruits for Rwandan rebel outfits based in eastern DR Congo.

In addition, two senior leaders of the FDLR militia who were arrested by Congolese authorities last year before they were transferred to Kigali confessed in court that they were seized as they returned from a meeting with Ugandan and RNC officials in the capital Kampala.

Later in May 2029, Callixte Nsabimana, the leader of FLN militia that made incursions in south-western Rwanda killing several people and abducting others, said in a Kigali court following his arrest that his armed group had received support from Kampala.

Scores of Rwandans who have returned home after months or years of illegal incarceration in Uganda have testified how they were subjected to severe abuse, and one of the torture victims has since passed away.

As a result of Kampala's growing hostilities, the Rwandan government in March issued travel advisory on Uganda travel.

However, the leaders of the two neighbouring countries last month signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Luanda, Angola to normalise relations, and a subsequent joint ad hoc commission is currently holding its first meeting in Kigali in an effort to operationalise the deal.

The meeting is being attended by officials from Angola and DR Congo, the facilitators of the MoU.

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