Rwanda-Uganda tensions escalate as Rwandan police kills 2 Ugandans

Two Ugandans have been shot dead in Rwanda.

The weekend’s killing of two Ugandans by Rwanda security forces could escalate tensions between two neighbouring countries that are already having a fragile relationship that led to Rwanda’s closure of its borders at the beginning of the year.

Rwandan police in the wee hours of Sunday morning shot dead John Bosco Tuhirirwe, 30, a resident of Nyakabungo village in Kyabihangwa parish and Job Byarushaga, 37, a resident of Kiruhura village,  Kamwezi Sub County in Uganda’s southwestern district of Rukiga.

They were shot about 200 metres into Rwanda’s territory at Tabagwe village, Nyagatare district.

According to eyewitnesses, the deceased together with three others identified as Aron Ainebyoona, Christopher Byamukama and Emmanuel Niwamanya were smuggling tobacco using bicycles from Kamwezi to Rwanda.

They had crossed into Rwanda through a porous border of Mpororo commonly known as Busia.

Byamukama, one of the survivors said, they were first intercepted by Local Defense operatives and quizzed on why they had crossed into Rwanda.

They tried to plead for forgiveness but the Local Defense operatives alerted their superiors at Nyagatare who on arrival opened fire and instantly killed Tuhirirwe and Byarishanga.

According to Byamukama, Byarishanga was shot twice while Turirirwe was shot once in the chest forcing the survivors to abandon their bicycles and fled back to Uganda.

Jackson Muganiizi, Rukiga LCV Vice Chairman, who is also the district councilor for Kamwezi sub county  said, after shooting, Rwandan security operatives wrapped the bodies in sacks and carried them to Nyagatare.

Elly Maate, police spokesperson for Kigezi region says that investigations into the matter are on-going.

A statement by JB Kabera, the spokesman of the Rwandan police claims that the two Ugandans were shot in self defence.

He said, the Ugandans were suspected smugglers who had illegally entered the Rwandan territory.

“The smugglers became violent and assaulted police officers who reacted in self-defense shooting dead two while the rest escaped,” Kabera stated.

Rwanda closed its borders with Uganda in February 2019 to purportedly expedite the construction of the single customs at Gatuna border.  Rwanda advised truck drivers destined to Kigali to use Kagitumba border via Mirama Hills.

President, Paul Kagame later accused Ugandan authorities of abducting its citizens and locking them up in ungazetted areas. Rwanda also accused Uganda of hosting and facilitating dissidents especially Rwanda National Congress-RNC and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda FDLR, which have declared war on the Kigali government.  Rwanda advised its citizens against travelling to Uganda, saying it can’t guarantee their safety.