Uganda-Rwanda relations have not been adversely affected by the arrests and court-martialling of police officers accused of kidnapping and illegally extraditing two Rwandan refugees in 2013.
Four years ago, Lt Joel Mutabazi and Jackson Kalemera were grabbed and returned to Rwanda yet their lives were reportedly under threat there. A number of policemen have been charged in the General Court Martial in regard to their alleged involvement in this deportation which was carried out against the will of the two refugees.
But the public relations officer at the ministry of Foreign Affairs, Margaret Kafeero, has said that Uganda’s ties with Rwanda remain very good -- despite suggestions of Rwanda’s suspected collusion in what may turn out to be subversion in the police officers’ conduct.
“Rwanda hasn’t complained to us. As two countries, we haven’t complained about anything. If we have any problem with our relationship, we know the established channels to resolve our problems. This is a story from the media, not originated from the government of Uganda or Rwanda,” she said during an interview last week.
At least nine people including seven police officers have been charged with illegal possession of firearms and kidnapping Mutabazi, a former bodyguard of President Paul Kagame in 2013, and illegally turning him over to Rwanda.
Mutabazi is said to be serving a life sentence in Rwanda. The police officers were charged under the UPDF Act, 2005. Section 119 provides that any person in possession of arms that are supposed to be a monopoly of the military will face martial law.
Rwanda’s High Commissioner Frank Mugambagye declined an interview for this story. Mutabazi fled Rwanda in 2010 over alleged political persecution. But the Rwandan government made a counter claim, accusing him of trying to kill Kagame.
David Apollo Kazungu, the commissioner for refugees, said they interacted then with police chief Kale Kayihura, to know the circumstances of the deportation in 2013.
Kazungu explained that when political refugees come into the country, they are screened, registered, granted asylum for settlement and protection by police.
“We also give them food, water, education, health services and those entitled to work, they work,” Kazungu said.
The accused police officers include Senior Commissioner of Police Joel Aguma; Senior Superintendent of Police Nixon Agasirwe; Sgt Abel Tumukunde, James Magada, and Assistant Inspector of Police Benon Atwebembeire.
Special Police Constable Faisal Katende, Cpl Amon Kwarisima; Rene Rutagungira, a Rwandan national, and Bahati Mugenga Irunga, a Congolese, were also charged with the Mutabazi kidnap.
The case returns to the court martial at Makindye on November 20, when their objection to trial before a military court is scheduled to be heard.
Relations between Rwanda and Uganda have generally warmed over the last 10 years or so. Ties had been progressively very chilly following the 1990s Kisangani clashes when armies of the allies fought deadly battles in the DR Congo.
Matters were aggravated in the first part of this decade when dissidents opposed to either government found safe haven across their common border.