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The family of Moses Ishimwe Rutare, 33, a Rwandan national who had been kidnapped by Ugandan Security operatives in December last year, had to  pay up to Ush2 million (about Rwf480,000) in what it says was a ransom for his return to Rwanda.

They say the money was paid to a state attorney, having previously paid another 18 million Ugandan Shillings in legal fees.

Ishimwe, who returned from Uganda on Thursday last week, and his elder brother Fred Irumva Rutare, were yesterday speaking to us, months after the former was picked up by Uganda’s security agents from a church in Bugolobi, Kampala, where he had gone for prayers.

He says he had been given bail after paying UgSh2m but was kept in Luzira maximum prison for three months until he was forced to pay another UgSh2m to a state attorney for his release last week.

Ugandan operatives

Ishimwe shortly after he was released from Luzira prison after his family bribed authorities on Thursday last week. His legs bear scars from torture by Ugandan security personnel.

In total, he says his family spent some 20 million Ugandan shillings (about Rwf4.8m) in legal fees, court charges, and bail surety fees.

The fees also included the acquisition of a habeas corpus order issued by the judge requiring the military to produce him before court.

He had appeared before the Nakawa Chief Magistrate’s Court in March.

“The judge ruled that he should be released with conditions only for his captors to keep him in jail until we were asked to cough up more money for his release and termination of the case,” Irumva said of his younger brother’s ordeal at the hands of Ugandan authorities.

Ishimwe was picked up from Bugolobi by operatives attached to Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) on December 24, 2018, he says.

He had travelled to Uganda two months earlier and granted a six-month stay by the country’s immigration authorities.

Trumped-up claims

However, he says his captors made up claims that he had illegally crossed into Uganda and was spying on the country. He would later be charged with illegal entry during his court appearance in March.

“I have never been involved in any political activity and never held any public office,” he says.

Ishimwe was born, raised and studied in Uganda. 

At the time of his arrest he was working with a Christian ministry.

He says he was brutally and psychologically tortured, was seriously beaten, and threatened with death.

Immediately after his arrest in December he was taken to CMI headquarters in Mbuya, Kampala where he was illegally detained and tortured, he says.

“In Mbuya I was clobbered with cables and tortured by security agents who were forcing me to admit to trumped-up claims,” he says.

While there, he says he fell sick and was regularly throwing up as a result of mistreatment.

Soon the operatives realised that his situation was worsening and decided to transfer him to Kireka Police Station in Kampala, from where he was taken to hospital.

Later, he was transferred to Luzira maximum prison.

It was from Luzira that he would later appear before the judge.

How he was kidnapped

Ishimwe says he was kidnapped by plain-clothed agents during an end-of-year event at a church in Bugolobi.

“I had gone out to answer a call from my mother only to be approached by a stranger who started asking me who I was and what I was doing,” he recalls.

Surprised, he asked the man who he was himself and why he was questioning him.

Amid the exchange, six armed men appeared from nowhere and forced him into a car. Off they drove away. To a destination he says he later came to learn was Mbuya military barracks. 

Many Rwandans who have been deported from Uganda in recent months have disturbing memories of their ordeal at Mbuya.

Many other Rwandans remain unaccounted for after going missing during visits to Uganda, with fears they may be languishing in ungazetted detention facilities, otherwise known as ‘safe houses’.

In Ishimwe’s case, his disappearance was first reported by his Ugandan wife, prompting his family and Rwanda’s embassy in Kampala to intervene.

Ishimwe is known to be part of the team that organises the popular “Blankets and Wine” social events.

In a related development, Foreign Affairs minister Dr Richard Sezibera said yesterday that Rwanda’s travel advisory to its nationals against travelling to Uganda still stood.

He was speaking to us a day after Rwanda Revenue Authority announced that it had temporarily opened the Gatuna border crossing to heavy trucks having earlier partially closed the border to allow for construction of the one-stop border post.

Rwanda accuses Uganda of harassing, arresting and torturing its nationals with the help of Rwandan dissidents it says are facilitated by Ugandan authorities to recruit fighters and conduct subversive activities with view to destabilise Rwanda.

Several deported Rwandans have said they had been threatened with death for rejecting efforts to recruit them into dissident network, mainly run by individuals linked to the RNC terror group.

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