Authorities in Rwanda have deported four Ugandan teachers on allegations of attempting to illegally exit Rwanda via porous routes.
The teachers who were deported at around 7pm on Tuesday are Balikitenda Alex, 29, Ssenono Abdul Mutwarib, 31, Naturinda Jethro, 41 and Nalumenya Samuel, 45.
These were first arrested and detained at Rwenzamenyo-Nyamirambo main detention facility in Kigali before being deported.
Balikitende who comes from Kaliro district in Eastern Uganda, Naturinda who comes from Kabale district in Western Uganda and Ssenono who comes from Wakiso district were all arrested on April 1.
Their colleague Nalumenya, 45, who comes from Wakiso district was arrested on March 31.
Speaking to this news website, one of the deported teachers said after their arrest, authorities cancelled their valid work permits and declared them prohibited immigrants in Rwanda.
He however refutes the narrative by Rwandan authorities of attempting to exit using porous routes.
“I did not in anyway try to move to Uganda at the time of the arrest, I did not. I was picked from home and I am surprised they say I was using porous routes to cross,” explains one of the teachers.
“May be Kigali is no longer interested seeing Ugandans work work in Rwanda. I have been to and working in Rwanda for a couple of years now and such has never happened, why do it now?” he asked.
The other three also denied having tried to come back to Uganda when they were arrested saying they were picked by security while doing their personal business with in Rwanda.
This is not the first time Kigali is deporting Ugandan nationals. In April they declared as illegal, Ugandans seeking work in their country as the small East African country deported two female Ugandan nationals over the same.
The two Ugandans were identified as Birungi Monique, 25 and Kansiime Lillian, 26, both residents of Nyarutuntu Subcounty in Ntungamo district. These were arrested on April 14 at Kibuye in Rwanda and later detained at Burera district in the Northern part of the country.
The duo would later on April 18, 2021 at around 6pm be dumped at Katuna border post with a deportation note referring to them as ‘prohibited immigrants.’
“I thought just as many Rwandans live and work in Uganda, I could also work in Rwanda but I was arrested. I am happy to be free from Rwanda security and to be back home,” Kansiime Lillian said when contacted by SoftPower News.
Kigali’s decision to deport Ugandans seeking work in Rwanda violates several treaties and agreements ratified by East African Community Member States that provide for free movement of persons, labor and services amongst themselves.
Rwandan authorities have in the past shot dead dozens of Ugandan traders who travel to their country for trade and visiting relatives. Many of these Ugandans are falsely accused of being smugglers. They have also shot Ugandan nationals within Uganda.
In January this year, a Ugandan, Teojen Ndagijimana, aged 26, was shot dead by Rwandan Defence force (RDF) in Kumugu Trading Centre in Musanze District inside Rwanda, about three kilometres from the Uganda border.
Other Ugandans who have been shot dead by Rwandan forces are Alex Nyesiga, 32, who was killed in May last year together with a Rwandan national as they entered Rwanda from Uganda.
On November 9, two other Ugandans Job Ebyarishanga and Bosco Tuheirwe, both residents of Rukiga District near the border, were shot dead about 1km inside Rwanda. Rwanda police later claimed the deceased were smuggling raw tobacco into the country.
The killed Ugandans and Rwandans are never tried by any Rwandan court of law but shot at.
It should be noted that the deportation happened amid the ongoing efforts to mend the relations between Kampala and Uganda.
Relations became frosty in February 2019 when Rwanda unilaterally closed its border with Uganda at Katuna in February last year, stopping movement of goods and people from either country. Goods perished as cargo trucks whose drivers and proprietors were unaware of the developments queued up on the Ugandan side of the border.
Rwanda at the time claimed the closure was due to ongoing construction. President Kagame later said while communication had been made that he closed the border due to construction, the reasons were political. He would later bar Rwandan nationals from crossing to Uganda by road through Katuna border citing mistreatment in Uganda.
However, Rwandans who travel to Uganda by air from Kigali through Uganda’s Entebbe aiport are not stopped by the Rwandan authorities.
Ugandan authorities on the other hand said that while Rwandans are welcome to Uganda as always, the country will not tolerate comprising of its national security. A number of Rwandans were arrested inside the territory of Uganda and charged for kidnapping Rwandan refugees and asylum seekers and illegally repatriating them to Rwanda, among other security related charges.
Uganda hosts more than one million refugees including Rwandan refugees who have over the recent years left the country in thousands.
Uganda’s open-door policy to refugees is hailed by the United Nations (UN) as the most progressive in the world.