Kabale, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Residents of Butanda sub-county in Kabale district staged a peaceful demonstration protesting the continuous entry of Rwandan nationals into Uganda through porous borders. The residents mostly taxi drivers blocked Butanda-Rubaya-Kabale road at Habubaare trading centre in Butanda sub-county using their vehicles on Sunday afternoon.
They displayed placards with different messages wondering whether Rwandan nationals are special to have national identity cards for two countries. “We have a problem of illegal entrants in our area, our leaders are being corrupt and covering illegal entrants,” decried residents, calling on Minister David Bahati to intervene.
The protesters argued that Rwandan nationals cross from Burera district to Butanda especially through the porous borders of Kabere-Hakyoma, Rutare, and dwell in Habubaare trading center and Bigaaga. They also say that some of the Rwandan nationals have of recent bought taxis and started operating along Butanda-Katuna-Kabale road while aiding their fellow Rwandan nationals only and at very high costs.
Locals also say that the Rwandan nationals especially those who have ventured into the transport business have declined to join their associations and threaten Ugandans whenever they ask them to join local associations. Nickson Kanyesigye, a resident of Bigaaga and Victor Arinda, a taxi driver says that as locals, they have many unanswered questions.
They note that official transport from Butanda to Kabale town is Shillings 10,000 but Rwandan passengers using taxis driven by their fellow Rwandans willingly pay between Shillings 100,000-500,000 per route. Kanyesigye and Arinda say that they have received reliable information that the Rwandan nationals paying high transport fares cross with the knowledge of Rwandan security.
They want Ugandan security to follow up on the matter and make ensure that any Rwandan national who dwells in the area is investigated.
Peter Mwijusya, the chairperson of Rubaya-Butanda Taxi Driver’s Association says that as residents, they have decided to demonstrate because the continuous illegal entry of Rwandans could trigger insecurity for Ugandans since the two countries have sour relations.
Mwijusya also says that it is wrong for Rwandans to continue crossing into Uganda illegally and freely mix with locals without undergoing COVID-19 testing.
Edward Champion, the Butanda sub county LC3 chairman says that he is aware of Rwandan nationals who recently ventured into the taxi business and are only transporting Rwandan nationals between Shillings 100,000-500,000 from Butanda to Kabale instead of the usual Shillings 10,000. He says that Rwandan nationals illegally cross into Uganda under the pretext of visiting their relatives in Bunyoro and Tooro regions where they settled before the border closure.
Champion also says that last week, they held a security meeting and realized the need for deployment of security personnel because the two police officers at Butanda police post can’t man the porous border. He also says that efforts to use village local council chairpersons to arrest illegal immigrants hit a snag because most of them are related to the Rwandan nationals near the border.
Our reporter was unable to get a comment from Elly Maate, the Kigezi Region Police Spokesperson since he could not pick calls to his known mobile phone.
Major General Francis Takirwa, the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) Second Division Commander says that as security, they often arrest and deport the illegal immigrants. Takirwa however says that some Rwandan nationals continue to use porous borders out of ignorance or with intentions of provoking Uganda.
Takirwa says that because of the many porous routes, it is not possible for security to deploy a soldier per metre because of manpower problems.
Rwanda closed its borders with Uganda on February 27, 2019. Rwandan President Paul Kagame issued a travel advisory to his nationals against travelling to Uganda, saying their safety is not guaranteed. He accused Ugandan authorities of abducting Rwandan citizens and locking them up in non-designated areas.
Since then, Ugandans who cross Rwanda through porous borders have been receiving a rude welcome from Rwandan security. Justus Kabagambe, a resident of Rutare village in Rugaga parish, Kabale district was shot dead on August 18 at Kitovu village in the Northern Province in Rwanda, about half a kilometre from the Uganda-Rwanda border.
After the incident, Rwandan security claimed to have gunned down Kabagambe for smuggling Movit Jelly products into their territory. But on repatriating the body on August 29th, 2021, Rwandan authorities led by the District Police Commander for Burera, Superintendent of Police (SP) Aphrodis Nkundineza and Marie-Chantal Uwanyirigira, the Burera District Mayor, said Kabagambe was killed for smuggling waragi into Rwanda and resisting arrest.
Ugandan authorities led by the Kigezi Police Spokesperson, Elly Maate, Muhammad Byansi, Kabale District Police Commander, Reuben Mutabazi, the District Internal Security Officer, and Nelson Nshangabasheija, the District Chairman tasked Uwanyirigira to present the exhibit of the waragi the deceased was smuggling in vain. She instead claimed that the waragi poured down during the scuffle. Kabagambe is the 7th Ugandan to be killed by Rwandan security since impasse between the two countries started.