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Ugandan Court Martial withdraws charges against seven Rwandan Nationals

FILE PHOTO: Lt General Andrew Gutti

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT  | The General Court Martial in Kampala has withdrawn charges against seven Rwandan Nationals, who had been charged with illegal possession of firearms. The seven include Rene Rutagungira, Bahati Mugenga, Emmanuel Rwamuco, Augustine Rutisiri, Etienne Nsanzabahizi, Charles Byaruhanga and Claude Iyakaleme.

Rene Rutagungira who was the first to be arraigned in court in 2017 was first charged with abduction but the charges were later amended. The prosecution alleged that Rene used a pistol and grenades to abduct Lt Joel Mutabazi and Jackson Kalemera, the former bodyguards of Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda.

According to the charge sheet, Rene then took the abductees to Rwanda in a move crafted together with other Ugandan Police officers including Nixon Agasirwe.

But on Tuesday, the Army prosecution led by Lt Col Raphael Mugisha tendered before the court a document indicating that they had lost interest in the case. He, however, added that the withdrawal of charges doesn’t mean that they cannot be reinstated at any time.

The court presided over by Lt General Andrew Gutti later endorsed the withdrawal of the charges and set the suspects free.

Eron Kiiza, the suspects’ lawyer welcomed the decision and demanded that his clients should be compensated for malicious prosecution.

The release of the suspects comes at a time when there are tensions between Uganda and Rwanda are at its lowest. Tensions started in early 2019 after Rwanda closed its Gatuna and Chanika borders and issued a Travel Advisory in which it warned its citizens against travelling to Uganda.

Kagame accused Uganda of harbouring dissidents with intentions of destabilizing the Kigali government.

Last week, President Yoweri Museveni promised that the tensions between the two countries will be solved.

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