Seven Rwandan nationals seek asylum in Uganda

Seven Rwandan nationals seek asylum in Uganda
Rwandan asylum seekers board a UNHCR vehicle that transported them to Nakivale Refugee Camp

Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) has handed over seven Rwandan asylum seekers to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

The Rwandan asylum seekers are Eugine Mukeshimana, Sudi Uwiyesenga and their children, Joana Uwase Irakoza, Fred Kwibuka Mugisha and another two year old child.

The others are Enock Kwizera and Sumayi Nkukiyimana. Christine Ayebazibwe, the Kabale URCS Branch Manager, says the Rwandan nationals reported to their offices in Mwanjari ward in southern division of Kabale Municipality on April 03rd, 2019 seeking for refuge.

She says the Rwandans asked URCS to find them a place where to stay, saying they will never return to Rwanda because of the unbearable conditions in the country. Ayebazibwe explains that Mukeshimana who was expecting was taken to Kabale Regional Referral Hospital over the weekend where she delivered a baby girl.

Ayebazibwe says she contacted UNHCR officials who offered to transport the asylum seekers to Nakivaale Refugee Camp in Isingiro District. Kwizera, one of the asylum seekers said life hasn’t been the same for them since President, Paul Kagame ordered the closure of the borders with Uganda.

According to Kwizera, they were forced to flee to Uganda through the porous border due to hunger. He disclosed that many people in Rwanda are starving due to lack of food because of the border closure.

Kwizera said that even the available food in Rwanda is too costly for ordinary citizens. Sudi Uweyesenga said he decided to cross to Uganda to seek refuge after realizing that the tension between the two neighboring countries could result into a serious war.

Uweyesenga says that he rather stays in a camp early as a refugee instead of waiting to witness bloodshed like he did during the 1994 Rwanda genocide. He said more people are ready to escape from Rwanda to Uganda for refuge should the current situation persist.

Brian Ampeire, the Kabale District Police Commander, said the security team in the district agreed that the asylum seekers be taken to the refugee camp. Rwanda closed its borders with Uganda on February 27, 2019 allegedly expedite construction works at Gatuna border.

Rwanda advised truck drivers destined to Rwanda to use Kagitumba border via Mirama Hills. Rwanda also advised its citizens against travelling to Uganda, saying it can’t guarantee their safety.

Rwandan officials including President, Paul Kagame accused Uganda authorities of abducting its citizens and locking them up in ungazetted areas. The country also accused the country of hosting, sponsoring and facilitating dissidents especially Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which have declared war on Rwanda.

Many Rwandan citizens especially living near the border are struggling to find food because of the border closure since they are restricted from crossing to Uganda. On March 28th, 2019, 37-year-old Elizabeth Mukarugwiza, a resident of Kinigi village in Nyamirima parish in Musanza Sub County in Musanza district in Rwanda died moments after crossing to Uganda where she had come in search of food.

She had used the porous borders together with other Rwandan nationals to stealthily cross to Uganda to get food for their starving families. But their plan was thwarted by Rwandan security. Mukarugwiza collapsed and died moments after making it to Uganda, according to Red Cross volunteers at Kyanika border.