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Kuteesa, Mugambage clash over release of Rwandan Nationals

Released Rwandan Nationals. PHOTO via @UgandaMediaCent

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT  | Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kuteesa and Rwanda High commissioner to Uganda Maj. Gen. Frank Mugambage have clashed over the reasons for the release of seven Rwandan nationals who were freed by the Court Martial yesterday.

The seven, who had been charged with illegal possession of firearms, include Rene Rutagungira, Bahati Pacifique Mugenga, Emmanuel Rwamucho, Augustine Rutayisire, Charles Byaruhanga, Etienne Nsanzabahizi and Claude Iyakaleme, who were all arrested between 2017 and 2018 in Kampala and Mbarara.

They were freed on Tuesday on grounds that the government had lost interest in the case. Today, they were handed over to Rwandan authorities.

Their release came a few days after Ambassador Mugambage called on Uganda to release all Rwandan nationals incarcerated in Uganda. He said that many of those in detention were arrested on trumped-up charges.

But speaking to journalists at Serena Hotel in Kampala today, Minister Sam Kuteesa said Uganda dropped charges as a gesture of goodwill, to ease tensions between the two countries.

He added that the decision to release the Rwandan Nationals was a result of a visit Rwanda by Ambassador Adonia Ayebare as president Museveni’s emissary to President Kagame. He said Rwanda had sent a list of its nationals in detention, although he adds, many of those on the list had been already sent back to Rwanda.

Kuteesa, who didn’t divulge details on the message that Ayebare carried, said they hope Rwanda would reciprocate the gesture and work out all outstanding issues between the two countries so that normalcy returns.

However, Mugambage says that although the release is welcome, Rwanda is still concerned that many other Rwandans are still locked up in Uganda on fictitious charges. He demands that these, too, should be released unconditionally.

Similarly, Rwanda’s minister of state for East African affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe believes that there are more than 100 Rwandans incarcerated in Uganda.

Relations between Rwanda and Uganda hit bottom lows at the beginning of last year with the former closing its borders at Gatuna. Rwandan nationals were also barred from travelling to Uganda, their government claiming that they are not safe.

Rwanda also said Uganda was harboring dissidents bent at destabilizing the Kagame administration. Efforts to have the two countries normalize relations have proven unsuccessful even with the involvement of Angola as an arbiter.

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