Former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Gen Kale Kayihura, was on Friday charged with one count of “aiding and abetting kidnap from Uganda” of three Rwandan nationals and two counts of “failing to protect war materials”.
The charge of aiding and abetting the kidnap of Rwandan nationals from Uganda and handing them over to Rwanda has more significance than just what will transpire inside the General Court Martial (GCM) when or if the case goes through full trial.
The men who were kidnapped from Uganda and handed over to Rwanda, especially Lt Joel Mutabazi, who was a bodyguard of Rwanda president Paul Kagame for decades, are significant.
The others over whose kidnap and handover to Rwanda Gen Kayihura was charged with on Friday, are Mr Jackson Karemera alias Ndiga and Sgt Innocent Kalisa.
The events leading to the kidnap and its aftermath pointed to a dip in Uganda-Rwanda relations, which have been lukewarm since the armies of the two countries clashed in DR Congo. Suspicions then ensued, with the two governments suspecting each other of harbouring intentions of overthrowing the other. There is no evidence to show these suspicions have been buried.
At the height of the fallout, political dissidents would escape from one of the two countries to another, and vice versa.
Regarding the charges that were read for Gen Kayihura on Friday, it is alleged that between 2012 and 2016, by omission and commission, the then IGP aided and abetted the actions of subordinate police officers and others on various occasions, without hindrance, to kidnap and illegally repatriated Rwandan exiles and refugees.
Gen Kayihura is the most senior government official to be charged for the 2013 kidnapping of Rwandan refugees and Asylum seekers. The army court has in recent months charged and remanded a number of people, some senior police officers, over the kidnap of the trio.
The others currently facing charges before the military court are Mr Nixon Agasirwe, formerly said to be a close ally of Gen Kayihura, who got assigned a number of important duties, and Mr Joel Aguma, formerly the commandant of the police’s Professional Standard Unit (PSU).
The others charged in this regard are Benon Atwebembeire, Abel Tumukunde, James Magada, Faisal Katende and Amon Kwarisima. On the charge sheet is also a Rwandan, Rwene Rutagungira, and Pacifique Bahati Mugenga aka Ilunga Monga, a Congolese.
Apart from the kidnappings and repatriation to Rwanda of the trio, a number of Rwandan refugees in Uganda reported threats to their lives in Uganda and many had to be resettled in other countries, especially after the shooting to death in December 2011 in Kampala of Charles Ingabire, a journalist who was running an online publication in Kinyarwanda, which was critical of the Kagame regime.
Many of the Rwandans who were relocated claimed that the security forces in Uganda, particularly Uganda Police Force, which was then under Gen Kayihura, did not offer them sufficient protection.
LT. JOEL MUTABAZI
The soldier. Lt Joel Mutabazi served as Mr Kagame’s bodyguard. He is currently serving a life sentence in Rwanda after he was convicted of being an accomplice in grenade attacks that killed two people in Kigali and plotting to assassinate the president.
Mutabazi, together with Joseph Nshimiyimana, were also found guilty of plotting to kill president Kagame in collaboration with the Rwanda National Congress, an opposition group based in South Africa. The group allegedly offered the men $50,000 (about Shs190m) to support the plot. The trial was conducted by a military court.
Mutabazi was one of 16 people on trial, including three of his relatives, who were jailed for between four and eight months. Though Mutabazi appealed the sentence saying he had been kidnapped, little has been heard of him since.
The kidnap. Mutabazi was first kidnapped on the evening of August 20, 2013 from UNIK Hotel in Kyaliwajjala, near Kampala. The kidnappers used a fake Interpol arrest warrant, alleging that Mutabazi, together with two other individuals, were involved in an armed robbery at Banque De Kigali in September 2011.
During the kidnap ordeal, an unidentified group of armed men stormed his hotel room and whisked him away in a white Ipsum car Reg. No. UAK 551B.
He was detained at Jinja Road Police Station from where it was discovered that he was under the protection of the Ugandan Government and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
The illegal extradition to Rwanda was aborted at Entebbe airport after State Minister for Disaster Preparedness Musa Ecweru presented formal documents of his asylum.
UNHCR protested the arrest of Mutabazi to the Ugandan Government. Mr Daniel MacIsaac, the UNHCR senior communications officer then, issued a statement saying the
“impunity displayed by people who are clearly non-Ugandan but operating inside Uganda is an affront to the asylum regime in Uganda.”
Mutabazi’s luck ran out when he was kidnapped again in October 2013 in Mpigi District after a pursuit by the Uganda police. The next time he was heard of, he was in the hands of the Rwandan police a few days later.
Coming to Uganda. Mutabazi had escaped from Rwanda in 2011, where he had been detained by the country’s intelligence services for 17 months and sought asylum in Uganda.
On arrival in Uganda, attempts were made on his life. On July 12, 2012, Lt Mutabazi escaped unhurt after someone shot into his house in Kasangati. After the narrow escape, Mutabazi took refuge at Kasangati police station from where he was rescued by UNHCR.
After the Kasangati attack, Mutabazi applied to UNHCR to be transferred to another country but the request had not materialised by the time he was kidnapped.
PTE INNOCENT KALIISA
Joining the army. Private Innocent Kaliisa, No. AP987709, joined the Rwanda Patriotic Army in 2001. He underwent basic military training and was posted in the Rwanda Presidential Protection Unit.
Coming to Uganda. According to those known to him, Kaliisa came to Uganda on a mission to kidnap and take Joel Mutabazi back to Rwanda from where he had escaped. However, when he arrived in Kampala, Kaliisa allegedly went against his boss’ instructions.
Both Kaliisa and Mutabazi had undergone specialised commando training in preparation for their job to guard the Rwandan president. Kaliisa instead allegedly turned himself in and told the police in Uganda all that had happened.
The kidnap. Kaliisa was kidnapped in Kampala on August 12, 2013 and whisked to an unknown location.
Before his kidnap, Kaliisa, who served under the Rwandan Presidential Protection Unit of the Republican Guard Division before fleeing to Uganda in 2010, expressed fears about his safety in an interview with the New York Times.
Kaliisa claimed that he was living under constant fear after being tortured in Rwanda over his alleged connection to opposition elements.
The then UNHCR Country Representative, Mohammed Abdi Adar, requested government to conduct an investigation on the whereabouts of Kaliisa.
Kaliisa was a close friend of Charles Ingabire, a former editor of Inyenyeri, an online publication who was shot dead in Kampala in December 2011