Drama as Rwanda hands over bodies of slain Ugandans

Drama ensued at the Uganda-Rwanda border of Buziba in Kamwezi Sub County in Rukiga district this morning during the repatriation of the bodies of two Ugandans short by Rwandan security last weekend.

Ugandan nationals, John Bosco Tuhirirwe and Job Ebyarishaga, both residents of Kamwezi sub-county were shot dead by Rwandan security at Tabarwe sector in Nyagatare district in the wee hours of Sunday morning, about 200 meters from Ugandan border on allegations of smuggling tobacco.

Three other Ugandans who were with the deceased including Aron Ainebyoona, Christopher Byamukama and Emmanuel Niwamanya managed to flee back to Uganda.

Local leaders from Rukiga district and members of the deceased’s families gathered at Uganda-Rwanda border in Buziba around 11am on Monday morning to receive their remains from Rwandan authorities.

The Ugandan team was led by Eddie Sserunjoji, the Kigezi Region Police Commander, Elly Maate, the Kigezi Region Police Spokesperson, Prikeria Muhindo Mwiine, the Rukiga Resident District Commissioner and Jackson Muganiizi, the Rukiga District LC Vice Chairman.

It took about an hour for Rwandan security officials led by Emmanuel Hatari, the Eastern Province Region Police Commander and David Claudian Mushabe, the Nyagatare district Mayor to arrive with the bodies amidst tight security. They tried to hand them over to Uganda authorities accompanied with death certificates.

However, Ugandan security authorities demanded that their counterparts present a postmortem and handover report before they receive the bodies. The Rwandan authorities instead handed over the deceased’s death certificates, which didn’t go down well with their Ugandan counterparts.

They sought an explanation while the Rwandan delegation didn’t present postmortem reports and handover certificates.

The Ugandan delegation was angered further when they realized that the death certificates were written in French and Kinyarwanda languages instead of English, which they could easily understand.

Sserunjoji, Maate and Muhindo declined to receive the bodies and demanded that the Rwandan officials first write a handover report.

This forced some Rwandan officials to drive back to Nyagatare to pick a police stamp and headed papers where to write the handover report after the Ugandan team rejected a draft on a plain piece of paper.
It took about 1 and half hours for the handover report to be drafted. The Rwandan team promised to handover the postmortem reports through embassies.

The Ugandan officials condemned the shooting of the Ugandans, saying killing doesn’t solve problems.

Prikeria Muhindo Mwiine, the Rukiga Resident District Commissioner, said the two should have been arrested and charged with smuggling.

We’re really sorry as people of Uganda, people of Kamwezi to have lost these two sons of ours. It is really very unfortunate that they met their death and I want to condemn the killing. People should be arrested and put to prison. Killing will not solve problems. It is unfortunate that we lost our people,” Muhindo said.

A casket containing one of the bodies being loaded into a vehicle

David Claudian Mushabe, the Mayor of Nyagatare district maintained that the two were killed when they assaulted police officers.

“When police officers tried to stop the smugglers, they refused and eventually violently wanted even to kill the police officers. What happened, in self-defence, the police shot dead two of them. Besides that, to me, I can say it is very unfortunate though there is a lesson to learn,” Mushabe said.

“Those who smuggle should not be violent, also they should know that there are some gazetted areas they should be using if they are going for commercial businesses and this should be known. It is a pity to have these people killed but again every country has its own rules, what it likes to do, its own mandate and its own security,” he added.

Johnson Mushure, the father of Job Ebyarishaga said the death of his son is a big loss to the family since he was the soul bread winner.

He wants the Ugandan government to compensate his family to cater for the funeral arrangements as well as catering for the widow and his three children.

Rwanda closed its borders with Uganda in February  to purportedly expedite the construction of the single customs point at Gatuna border and 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.