Friends and family of two Ugandans recently arrested in Rwanda are worried and concerned about their safety. The fate of Gilbert Beingana, 24, and Amos Tibesiga, 50, both from Butanda sub-county, Kabale district remains unknown after they were arrested by Rwanda security officials on November 11.
Their arrest comes on the heels of heightened tension between Uganda and Rwanda. Less than two weeks ago, two other Ugandans were shot dead in Rwanda by security on allegations of smuggling tobacco from Uganda into Rwanda.
Gideon Turyatunga, a brother to Beingana says that he had crossed to Rwanda through one of the porous borders in Rubaya sub-county to pay a visit to his female relative in Burera.
Turyatunga says that Beingana had also offered to help another of their relatives to carry about 35 kilograms of sorghum to Kivuye market in Rwanda. However, they were intercepted along the way and detained at Commune headquarters. After interrogation, Beingana’s relative was released.
Turyatunga adds that although they know where Beingana is being held, they are hesitant to cross the border in fear of the repercussions to them and to the person in detention. He says that they have only reported the matter to sub-county security officials while liaising with their relatives in Rwanda to help.
Venerable Pafura Baryamureeba, a brother to Amos Tibesiga; the second detainee says that he was arrested on the same day while carrying Irish potatoes to Kivuye market after crossing to Rwanda through a porous border in Butanda.
Rubaya sub-county chairperson Canon Enock Kazooba says that the arrest of the two Ugandans in Rwanda has increased fear and tension among locals. Kazooba says that they are in touch with security officials in Kabale district to ensure that the two are rescued and returned to Uganda alive.
When Rwandan officials shot dead Job Ebyarishaga and Bosco Tuhirwe, who were accused of smuggling tobacco into Rwanda on November 10, Uganda protested, calling the shootings "reckless" and demanded a joint investigation so as to bring the perpetrators to account.
However, Rwanda said the killings were meant to send a message to Ugandans that Rwanda doesn't tolerate criminality and handles crime in a different way. Soon after the protest note, Rwanda called off the second meeting between Uganda and Rwanda that was meant to address the border closure with President Paul Kagame warning of high costs for Rwanda's dissidents and those helping and facilitating them.
Rwanda closed its borders with Uganda in February 2019; blocking off any trucks or passengers going to and fro Rwanda. Rwandans crossing into Uganda were blocked with Kagame saying Rwanda could not guarantee their security.
Kagame accused Rwanda of harbouring and facilitating dissidents plotting against his government. Uganda denied the accusations, but likewise also accused Rwanda of destabilising peace in Uganda through espionage and infiltrating of Uganda's security organisations and agencies.
Several Rwandans who have attempted to sneak into Uganda to access food and other services have been shot at or arrested.