By Boonabana Prossy
At the heart of Uganda-Rwandan conflict was the blatant aggression by the Rwandan security agencies who launched subversive activities into Uganda against Rwandan refugees, asylum seekers and Ugandans of Rwandan origin through kidnaps, murder and illegal repatriations.
These kinds of aggressive activities by the Rwandan security agencies in coordination with the Rwandan High Commission (that continue to act as a terror cell against perceived critics and refugees of Rwanda) were not only eroding the territorial integrity and security of Uganda but also against the rights of world citizens.
In the due process of this aggression, several dozens lost their lives and women, men and children were left as victims with no hope for tomorrow or ever seeing their dear ones. Some of these victims have their husbands, sons and relatives still incarcerated in Kigali safehouse without trial or prisons serving life sentences on political motivated charges.
It was at the height of cries and quest for justice that in 2017 of the victims took a leading role to voice out and condemn these aggressive activities by the Rwandan security agencies that had claimed the lives of many of their people and pushed several other to live in constant fear.
Resulting from their open advocacy through protesting to the President, Parliament, security agencies and development partners, that the Ugandan Government listened to their concerns and acted by arresting several of suspected criminals and their conspirators in Ugandan security.
This act alone reinvigorated home among the victims that finally justice was being served and there was respect for people’s dignity, freedoms and humanity by the government.
Since 2017, the victims have eagerly waited for justice to finally prevail through court systems, only this week to receive a shocker of their lives that the Government was withdrawing criminal charges without trial from seven hardcore Rwandan intelligence agents, this that we strongly condemn as miscarriage of justice and humanity.
The lives of victims and critics of the Rwandan aggression are now in grave danger.
Whereas as victims appreciate the gesture by the Ugandan leadership as a move intended to set in motion the process to normalise relations between the two countries, Uganda and Rwanda, a vow which President Yoweri Museveni made to the Ugandan public at the close of 2019, we also strongly note that this has been done at the alter of sacrificing justice, dignity and humanity for the victims of the Rwandan aggression.
The victims many of whom are even Ugandans and live in Uganda were not in any way involved in the process that we can comfortably term as a diplomatic appeasement to Rwanda by the Ugandan government that is a victim of the aggression. Uganda should avoid falling into the trap and blackmail of Rwanda to appear as a victim of their own criminality on the Ugandan territory and it’s citizens/residents.
There is no indication that this kind of action by Uganda acted as a deterrent for Rwandan aggressors and especially for the released criminals that they will desist from further engaging in acts that will jeopardise the purpose for which they have been freed.
We are sure and gravely concerned that Rwanda is still quenching its thirst to continue subversive activities in Uganda and more so atrocities against refugees and all that they perceive as their critics in Uganda.
That said and done, it is our prayer that Rwandan authorities reciprocate the gesture by the Ugandan leadership by setting free our husbands, children and relatives incarcerated in their custody.
Further, Rwanda should cease harassing Ugandans along the common border and tone down on overtures that suggest that they take Uganda’s camaraderie as a sign of weakness and lack of options.
We note that in all this diplomatic maneuverings, the obligation of states to guarantee the basic human rights and physical security to its citizens and all its residents also extends to refugees and asylum seekers in their territories. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has expressly affirmed that all civil and political rights must be guaranteed by states without discrimination between citizens and aliens.
The internationally recognized rights that refugees and asylum-seekers enjoy include the fundamental right to life, liberty and security of person, the right to be free from torture and other cruel or degrading treatment, the right not to be discriminated against, and the right of access to the courts or due processes of justice. Equitable Justice is an inherit right and not a donation and it extends to all citizens, residents and including refugees or asylum seekers in a country.
Refugees like citizens or other residents are also entitled to protection from refoulement and expulsion. Asylum seekers may not be summarily returned without giving them access to full and fair asylum procedures.
The doctrine of non-refoulement is now recognized as a norm of customary international law of universal application, and it applies to all government agents acting in an official capacity, within or outside their national territory. All persons are also protected under international human rights law from return to any country where they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
It’s our affirmation and call that Uganda should make it clear in no uncertain terms to Rwanda in this renewed diplomatic venture that the arrests of any of refugees or asylum seekers for any suspected crime must be subjected to full transparent and accountable legal process for equitable justice.
It is also our conviction that any reported kidnap and murder should be fully investigated and such reports made public for confidence building and security of the victims or targets of the Rwandan regime agents.
The writer is the Executive Director of Selfworth Initiative. Her husband, Rwema Gerderme was allegedly kidnapped from Uganda in 2015 by Rwandan Intelligence agents and is said to be incarcerated in a safe house in Rwanda.