On July 22, security officers from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and police raided a Pentecostal church in Kibuye in Kampala and arrested about 40 Rwandans who were reportedly worshipping. The suspects were rounded up and taken to an unknown destination and are still in custody to date without any known charge against them.
The army has declined to reveal the offences the suspects are accused of or where they are being detained, 10 days after the arrest. It is not clear whether they have been granted access to legal or consular services or their families.
This comes at a time when Rwanda and Uganda are trying to mend their icy relations, which have seen the common border at Gatuna closed to bilateral trade and movements.
During the recent African Union summit in Luanda, Angola both presidents of Rwanda and Uganda met under the auspices of the host Angolan president and discussed normalisation of the two countries’ relations, which process is already in motion.
This was reiterated by President Museveni, while speaking in Kigezi on Tuesday, that he had met his Rwandan counterpart in Angola and the duo discussed the border issue.
“Leave it with us. Talks shall continue until the matter is completely resolved,” Mr Museveni told the press at State Lodge in Kabale after meeting leaders in Kigezi sub-region.
The continued unexplained detention of Rwandan nationals for unknown charges and in unknown places could scupper the prospects of the ongoing discussions between the two sister countries and derail the whole process.
It would not be unreasonable to assume the security agencies have good reasons why the Rwandans, who were found in the country were arrested and the law should take its course. Nobody, whether local or foreign, should offend Uganda’s laws and whoever does, should be exposed to the full force of the law.
But justice must prevail and be seen to be done. However, keeping the suspects, especially those who are citizens of another country, without being charged or prosecuted in court where they can defend themselves, is not justice.
There should be transparency regarding the basis for their arrest so that there is no suspicion of persecution as their home government has previously alleged against Uganda.
Their continued detention incommunicado could give credence to the Kigali allegations that Ugandan security agencies are witch-hunting Rwandans, which Uganda has firmly denied in the past.
Our Constitution prohibits detention of suspects beyond 48 hours from time of arrest without taking the accused to court. Let the security agencies uphold the law but without compromising their mandate to protect the country from unlawful elements.