Drama ensued at Katuna border in Kabale district on Monday afternoon during the handover of the body of a Rwandan national gunned down in Rukiga district on Friday evening last week.
The Rwandan officials travelled to Katuna to pick the body of John Batista Nkyerengye a suspected smuggler who was shot dead by Rwandan security allegedly from inside Ugandan territory. However Rwanda insists Nkyerengye was shot from within Rwanda after he and a group of machete wielding Ugandans attempted to attack Rwandan security operatives after resisting arrest.
To receive the body, the Rwanda team was led by assistant commissioner of police, Emmanuel Hatari, the Eastern Province regional police commander and mayor for Nyagatare district, Claude Mushabe. The Ugandan delegation was led by Richard Ecega, the Kigezi region police commander and Caroline Kamusiime Muhwezi, the Rukiga district Woman member parliament.
Present were also representatives from the American, Russian, French and Burundian embassies in Uganda and the Tanzanian High Commission among others. The body handover ceremony was meant to take place in a tent with about 100 plastics chairs fitted with tables and bottled Rwenzori mineral water for the guests. However, the Rwandan officials drove for about 80 meters into Uganda and declined to proceed.
They brushed off attempts by the Ecega, Kamusiime and the Kabale LC V chairperson, Patrick Besigye Keihwa to convince them to proceed to the venue prepared for the function that was about 150 metres away.
Hatari and Mushabe demanded that Ugandan officials bring and handover Nkyerengye’s body where they had stopped. Muhwezi, the Rukiga Woman MP who spoke on behalf of Ugandan authorities condemned what happened in Kamwezi, saying something must be done to end a feud between the two countries.
“And we really condemn whatever happened in Kamwezi and we ask you to cooperate more, we unite because if we are to look at Kamwezi sub county, majority are Banyarwanda. They are part of us. It is not the first time it is happening, we expect you, the Rwandan government, to act and see how we solve this. We don’t expect to continue fighting between each other,” she said.
Mushabe welcomed the decision of Ugandan authorities to handover Nkyerengye’s body and asked Uganda to release several Rwandan nationals in its custody. He cited the example of Bosoce Ishimwe and Peter Sanvura, both residents of Tabarwe in Nyagatare district attached to Rwanda Defense Forces who were arrested on Sunday on suspicion of espionage.
“In as far as giving us our deceased one is concerned, Rwanda as a country, we cannot allow a person that just crosses illegally doing smuggling his usual way. But where is it coming from, it is coming from Uganda. It is better that you bring some more being held in your territory there. There are so many people, even yesterday [Sunday] you took some other two, they are in Uganda. The way you have brought us the dead body, it is better you bring us even those who are still alive.”
Gad Rugaaju, the Kabale deputy resident district commissioner, said Rwanda must restrain its soldiers from crossing to Uganda. He disclosed that his office has already registered five cases where Rwandan soldiers crossed to Uganda with guns.
“Since this border was closed, we have had very many issues. We have had very many soldiers crossing with guns into Uganda. However as Uganda, we have decided to be hospitable, when they come we watch them, they go back. We have not attacked anybody but it is running out of hands. Our desire is to live in harmony with Rwanda because Rwanda and Uganda there is no big difference. However as security were asking you to stop your guns from crossing to Uganda. It has become too much, this group has become the fifth according to my records,” Rugaaju said.
Rwanda closed its borders with Uganda on February 27, to purportedly expedite the construction of the single customs at Gatuna border. After the closure, Rwanda advised its citizens against travelling to Uganda, saying it can’t guarantee their safety. Rwanda also deployed security officials and destroyed all temporary bridges to bar Rwandans from crossing to Uganda.
Despite the border closure and warnings, Rwandans continue to cross to Uganda using porous borders to look for food, medicine, services and goods.