Arrest of Rwandan raises questions
Posted Friday, November 1 2013 at 02:00
This newspaper yesterday carried a story about the suspension of the police deputy CIID director, Mr Joel Aguma, after he questionably arrested and handed over Lt Joel Mutabazi, a dissident, to Rwandan authorities.
Lt Mutabazi, a former bodyguard to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, has been on Kigali’s wanted list over an alleged bank robbery in 2011. Lt Mutabazi, however, has previously claimed political persecution by Rwanda and had sought asylum in Uganda, which had been offered.
His eligibility for refugee status was still under review although the Office of the Prime Minister and the United Nations refugee office were managing his welfare.
Whereas we do not support criminals evading justice, we know that there are clearly laid down procedures on how extradition must happen. Lt Mutabazi was not just a runaway fugitive, his presence here was known by our government and other agencies like the United Nations.
What is more troubling is that this was not the first time it was happening. It is documented that in 2010, gunmen attacked Mutabazi in his house in Kasangati, spraying it with bullets. He survived narrowly. Just two months ago, we reported how Mutabazi had been kidnapped and forced into an unmarked car only to be rescued after the intervention of highly-placed Ugandan officials and UN condemnation.
But should the Uganda government not be concerned by the activities of those who have been hounding Mutabazi? Has ours become such a free, open playfield that anyone can come and conduct operations here minus any restraint?
Also, the suspension of Mr Aguma is not enough. At his level, he knows what extradition involves. If indeed the arrest warrant he was given was genuine, why was it not passed to Interpol for execution?
It also defeats common logic to imagine that Mr Aguma could have arrested a protected individual, driven him to Masaka and handed him over to his captors all by himself. Who, for example, could have sanctioned the withdrawal of Mutabazi’s two guards days before the Aguma operation?
The problem with Mutabazi’s arrest is that it can set a very dangerous precedent where individual police officers can be used to abuse the law. We hope the investigation launched will fix this matter.