Uganda: Why Uganda Released 9 Rwandans

(file photo).

Uganda yesterday said the release of the nine Rwandan nationals was a political decision to ease tension between the two countries.

Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa told the media at a joint press conference with the Rwandan High Commissioner to Uganda, Maj Gen Frank Mugambage, that Uganda expects Rwanda to "reciprocate" the favour.

In response, Maj Gen Mugambage described the release as "a step in the right direction" but insisted that Uganda has to do more before the common border at Katuna is reopened.

Rwanda closed its border with Uganda at Gatuna in February last year, barring any movement of merchandise from Uganda. Several people, both Ugandan and Rwandan citizens, have since been shot dead or wounded while trying to cross the border to Rwanda through ungazetted entry points.

"I am appreciating this as a step in the right direction and mentioning the 'step' because I always want to be very clear that a step in the right direction needs to be followed by further action to end the concerns," he said.

Maj Gen Mugambage also repeated the allegations that Uganda supports enemies of Rwanda, a claim Uganda has flatly dismissed as false.

"For me and the country I represent, it is this will to establish running of bilateral relations that will revamp the associated, mutually beneficial activities including economic and what is usually talked about- the uninterrupted activities along the common border," he added.

However, when he said the freed Rwandans had been arbitrarily and innocently arrested, Mr Kutesa told him that their release did not mean Uganda had no evidence against them.

"Let me state for the record that we have withdrawn charges against these nine people by entering a nolle prosequi (decision to drop charges against a criminal suspect) [but] the charges they were being held for and the arrests they had been under were not arbitrary. This is an act of goodwill which we hope will be reciprocated by the Rwanda government by dealing with the other issues we have raised," Mr Kutesa stated.

He noted that the withdrawal of the charges didn't mean they were acquitted.

"It is not an acquittal. It is a withdrawal of charges and you could be rearrested or be recharged," he said.

The released Rwandans include Nelson Mugabo, Rtd Sgt Rene Rutagungira, Etienne Nsanzabahizi, Claude Yakalemye, Emmanuel Rwamuchwo, Augustine Rutayisire, Cpl Nzeyamana, Adrien Munyagabe, and Gilbert Urayeneza.

Mr Brian Moogi, the lawyer representing Nsanzabahizi and Rwamuchwo, confirmed the release of his clients was political, and not judicial.

Mr Rutagungira and Yakalemye were accused of having participated in the kidnap of Rwandan refugees who were forcibly and illegally repatriated back.

But sources say Mr Rutagungira was surprisingly telling those close to him that he did not want to be handed over to Rwanda. President Kagame has previously said he had talked to President Museveni about the arrest of Rutagungira who was apprehended in 2014.

When asked whether there are still Rwandans still in Ugandan detension, Mr Kutesa said all those who were arrested have been deported to Rwanda.

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