Taarifa Rwanda

How They Spent Nearly 17 Months In A Ugandan Prison

Jean d’Amour Nizeyimana, from Rutsiro District, Mushonyi Sector, Kaguriro Cell, Kivumu Village says he left his home on March 13, 2018 and headed to Lake Victoria where he worked on two fishing boats in Uganda.

He was allowed to cross Cyanika border by Ugandan authorities after producing his identity card. Having arrived at the lake, Nizeyimana found out that Rwandans were being targeted and mistreated.

He spent two weeks at the lake, and decided to come back on March 22, of the same year. When he arrived in Gisolo District at Nyakabande, he came across a police motor vehicle carrying Ugandan officers and army soldiers.

They requested that those who had identity documents produce them, and Nizeyimana showed his national identity card and his token (jeton).

They immediately handcuffed him and seated him somewhere in a corner, where he met some 100 other handcuffed people. The police car pulled up and took them to a police station for statement. While filing their cases, there was no mention of the tokens.

They spent the night in the police station, and they were told to take their luggage around 8 a.m, in a promise to take them back home. So, one and all of 40 Rwandans took their luggage happily hoping that they were going back home.

Their hopes were shattered when they found themselves in court. No-one was requested to explain anything or defend themselves as it is supposed to be the case in normal court proceedings.

They were all rather charged with illicit entry and requested to stand up before being sentenced to 24 months equivalent to 2 years, each. However, on remission, the sentence was shortened to 16 months equal to 1 year and 4 months.

They were further transferred to a prison in Gisolo around 3 pm, where they spent one week. They had been requested to pay the fines of Rwf2 million each to spare them from a two-year imprisonment, but when Nizeyimana’s wife brought Rwf400,000 cash, they turned it down and insisted that the remaining amount be paid off first.

Nizeyimana and his fellow Rwandan detainees including Innocent Ngaruwenimana 19, from Musanze District, Muhoza Sector, Jean Damascene Nzeyimana,27, from Rutsiro District, Mushonyi Sector as well as Jean Paul Dusabimana, 24, from Burera District, Kagugu Sector, were among others    later on transferred to Ndolwa Prison in Kabale where they spent three weeks before being transferred to Kiburara Prison Farm in Ibanda overlooking the Democratic Republic of the Congo, near Kamwenge.

“When we arrived in this prison, we found out that life was hard. We spent the day clearing thorny bushes, working on corn fields and we were seriously beaten. When one fell sick and went to seek treatment, they were given like 3 pills. But we were told that we had to do or die,” Nizeyimana told journalists on Monday at Rwanda National Police Headquarters.

He added that inmates would work in the fields from sunrise in the morning till sunset, the hardest part of it being to carry a 100 kg- sack of maize on their heads to the motor vehicle. Those who failed to do this or lagged behind were beaten seriously.

“Nine months later, I managed to find a mobile phone and dialled my wife’s number just to let her know my whereabouts and that I was still alive, because it wasn’t easy to say everything. We remained in that life until our terms came to an end,” he added.

Nizeyimana alongside four more Rwandans were freed on August 3, 2019. They were also given transport fees to the border with Rwanda, after which they were told to fend for themselves.

It is worth recalling that the transport fees came from their daily remuneration of 100 Ugandan shillings (about Rwf20) for their forced labor.

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