One of the survivors of the Saturday night incident where two Ugandans were shot dead by Rwandan security forces has dismissed claims that they assaulted the latter, which forced them to shoot the former in self defence.
Job Ebyarishanga and Bosco Tuheirwe were shot dead on the Rwanda side of the border, about 1km away from Uganda’s Mpororo border post in Kamwezi Sub-county, Rukiga District.
On Sunday, Rwandan police said they shot the two Ugandans in Nyagatare District after they assaulted patrol police who intercepted them as smugglers. Rwanda police spokesperson J.B Kabera said in a statement that they shot the duo in self defence while their colleagues escaped.
However, one of the survivors, Mr Christopher Byamukama, told Daily Monitor yesterday that they pleaded for forgiveness but the Rwandan police still shot them.
“I was in the company of Aron Ainebyoona, Emmanuel Niwagaba, Ebyarishanga and Tuheirwe on that day as we smuggled raw tobacco into Rwanda. We were first intercepted by local defence operatives who quizzed us why we had crossed from Uganda to Rwanda with smuggled tobacco,” Mr Byamukama said.
“We did not assault any Rwandan security official. We pleaded for forgiveness but the local defence operatives alerted security officials at Nyagatare District headquarters in Rwanda. When the security operatives from Nyagatare arrived, they started shooting at us without asking for any explanation,” he added.
When their colleagues were shot, he and others ran back to Uganda under the cover of darkness.
The relatives of the deceased yesterday said they are relieved that Rwanda police acknowledge killing the Ugandans, implying there is a chance for their families to receive their bodies for burial.
Kamwezi Sub-county chairperson Tedson Niwagaba said he had not received any official communication from Rwanda about when the bodies would be handed over to the relatives. “But I am sure that the relatives shall soon receive the bodies of their deceased relatives,” Mr Niwagaba said.
He further warned residents on the Uganda-Rwanda border against smuggling goods from either country if they are to remain safe.
Rukiga Resident District Commissioner Prikeria Muhindo Mwiine said the bodies of the deceased will be brought back today.
“Uganda and Rwanda are working on the modalities of bringing back the bodies that are currently in Rwanda. The latest information I got is that Rwandans are still investigating what exactly happened and they might release them on Tuesday [today],” she said.
Tuheirwe was a resident of Nyakabungo Village in Kyabihangwa Parish while Ebyarishanga was from Kiruhura Village in Kashekye Parish, all in Kamwezi Sub-county.
“I appeal to the people in Kamwezi not to take revenge against the Rwandans staying in their communities because they are not part of what took place. I also appeal to the relatives of the deceased persons to be patient,” Ms Muhindo said.
She also asked the Uganda police to arrest people suspected to be involved in smuggling of goods from Uganda to Rwanda.
For some time now, relations between Rwanda and Uganda have been tense. In February, Rwanda closed its side of the border at Gatuna, blocking Ugandan goods from entering its country. Rwandan citizens were also barred from crossing into Uganda.
In August, President Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame met in Angola, and signed a pact to mend their relations and end the border blockade. An ad hoc committee comprising members from both countries was later formed to work out a solution but the relations remain fragile with Rwanda maintaining the border blockade for Ugandan goods.