At 5 pm, Monday, the first group of 79 arrived at Kagitumba One Stop Border Post crossed and handed to Rwanda by Uganda Immigration authorities, followed by another 51. This handover ceremony was overseen by immigration officials from both countries. It was also witnessed by officers from Rwanda National Police and Rwanda Defence Force, among others.
Looking exhausted and weak, members of the group said they had been detained in Uganda for lengthy periods during which they were subjected to torture, mistreatment and violation of rights such as being denied consular visits.
Reports say some were separated from their children while others lost their valuables.
Though the Ugandan Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the released had been pardoned by President Yoweri Museveni, majority of the returning Rwandans said they had served and completed their sentences.
Innocent Hakizimana, one of the released Rwandans, said that he was jailed at the beginning of 2018 and sentenced to two years which he had completed upon his release.
They will be tested and quarantined for the compulsory 14 days in line with measures to prevent the spread of New Coronavirus.
The Rwanda Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Dr. Vincent Biruta said that Rwanda emphasized key concerns to Uganda, mainly rotating around Rwandans who continue to be arrested, tortured and detained incommunicado in Uganda.
“As you might be aware, we have raised these issues with Uganda on different occasions, including the continued arrest and torture of Rwandans who are held in unknown detentions, sometimes releasing them after a long time.
“There are issues relating to continued aggressive media propaganda targeting the Government of Rwanda and the country’s leadership and many other issues which we have previously discussed in different meetings. The last summit gave a direction on how these issues can be addressed,” Dr. Biruta said.
Last week following the meeting of the 4th Ad Hoc Commission, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Vincent Biruta said that despite some progress made in the implementation of February 21 Heads of State summit resolutions, challenges remain in place despite Uganda committing to release 130 Rwandans.
“This is a good step, but there are other issues we raised which they need to work harder on to address, mainly the aggressive media campaign against Rwanda and the arrests which haven’t stopped, much as they are planning to release some people next week,”
He said that every week there is a Rwandan arrested and tortured in Uganda, pointing out that this must stop with immediate effect.
“For that to happen, we need to have political will. If there is no political will, then we will not get anywhere. We agreed that there is need for political will on both sides and if there is an issue that needs to be addressed, it is frankly discussed and resolved,” Dr. Biruta insisted.
He pointed out that Rwanda has appreciated actions such as deregistration of terrorist outfits such as Self-Worth Initiative which masquerade as NGOs while mobilizing and plotting against the government of Rwanda.
Dr. Biruta said that though the outfit was deregistered, it still operates Rwanda National Congress (RNC) cells in Uganda, something he said goes against the Government of Uganda previous commitment of disbanding the activities of the said criminal organization.
There are other 310 Rwandans, who Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa said committed capital offenses remain in detention. Rwanda said they should be formally charged and permitted consular visits as Rwanda is doing to Ugandan citizens jailed in Kigali.