KATUNA: Business at Uganda border town of Katuna was on Thursday morning paralyzed for more than three hours as traders staged a peaceful demonstration protesting the arrest of their colleagues by Rwandan authorities.
The Mayor for Katuna town council Mr Nelson Nshangabasheija was among the demonstrators who demanded the intervention of the Ugandan government for the release of one of their colleagues, Justus Tweyongyeire, 50, alias Mwaanamuto arguing that Rwanda being a member of the East African Community, people from either country are free to carry out cross border trade without being harassed.
Ms Christain Mpiriirwe the wife to Tweyongyeire and his son, Mr Mathis Tubenamukama said he was Saturday arrested by the Rwandan security officers at Katuna as he returned from Kigali where he had gone to buy US dollars for his business of forex exchange.
“After he had cleared with the Rwandan immigration and started walking towards Uganda side, he was arrested and at about 6pm, he was taken to Kigali for questioning. His mobile phone was switched off.
That is when we reported the matter to the Uganda police station at Katuna. This is the third time he is being arrested since the beginning of this month and we are worried about his life,” Mr Tubenamukama said.
Ms Mpiriirwe said the Rwandan authorities have not given them the reason for her husband’s arrest and appealed to the authorities in Uganda to intervene and save their family head.
“Tweyongyeire has been working as a money changer at Katuna border town for more than 30 years. Arresting him under unclear circumstances raises more questions than answers.
We need an explanation from the Rwandan government on why our colleague has been detained. If he has a case to answer, we should be told about it otherwise we are fed up of such acts,” Mayor Nshangabasheija said.
During the demonstration that started at about 9am, residents carried placards that displayed messages condemning the frequent arrests of their business colleagues before they blocked the road with poles and stones.
However, the Uganda police led by the officer in charge Katuna border station, Mr Zadoki Kajere intervened and asked them to clear the road for vehicles and people to pass.
“Under the East African community arrangement, people are expected to walk in out of neighbouring countries freely and that is what we have been exercising in Uganda but our counterparts are doing the contrary. We would love authorities there to at least respect this protocol by availing free movement,” Mr Nshangabasheija said.
Authorities at Katuna say Mr Tweyongyeire is not the only one who has had challenges in conducting business in Rwanda. Three years ago, two business men, Everest Akandinda and Dickson Tinyinondi were murdered in Rwanda.
The Kigezi regional police commander, Mr Dennis Namuwoza said that they are aware of Tweyongyeire’s arrest in Rwanda and they are going to engage Rwandan authorities about it.
He also condemned the manner in which residents protested especially closing the international road that connects Uganda to Rwanda.
“It is unfortunate that residents closed the border during the strike. We are aware of their colleague’s arrest and we are sure of his safety. We shall engage authorities in Rwanda to have a solution to this problem,” said Namuwoza.
The Ugandan deputy ambassador to Rwanda Ms Anne Katusiime said that they have received information from the Rwanda Ministry of foreign affairs telling them about the arrest of Mr Tweyongyeire on charges of illegal money exchange, forging and use of counterfeit documents and were making arrangements to visit him at Kimihurura police station in Kigali where he is being detained.
“As the Ugandan Embassy in Rwanda, we are aware of the detention of Tweyongyere and we are going to visit him at the police station at 4pm today (December 21) to establish more details and talk to him about the allegations levied on him,” Ms Anne Katusiime said.