KAMPALA – Uganda has warned Rwanda against continued border aggression and demanded a joint investigation into the murder of two Ugandan traders by Rwandan security forces on Sunday.
On Tuesday, Amb Patrick Mugoya, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered Uganda’s strong concerns to Rwanda’s High Commissioner, Amb Frank Mugambagye, in Kampala, demanding that perpetrators of the killings at the border be held responsible.
Ofwono Opondo, the government spokesperson, said in a statement released Tuesday evening that Uganda conveyed serious concern regarding an incident of murder of Ugandan nationals that occurred on Rwandan territory.
On Sunday, two Ugandans were shot dead by Rwandan security personnel from Tabagwe, along the Kamwezi border post.
Job Byarushanga and Bosco Tuhirirwe from Rukiga District were shot dead in what Rwanda alleges was for smuggling goods across the borders.
“The Government of Uganda protests in the strongest terms the murder of its nationals by Rwandan security personnel for allegedly being involved in smuggling of goods across the common border,” Opondo said in a statement released Tuesday evening.
“The alleged crime cannot justify the high handed and criminal act by the Rwandan security personnel against unarmed civilians residing along the common border.”
Diplomatic fallout between the two countries saw Rwanda close its borders with Uganda in February last year and also issued a travel advisory to its nationals, who are screened thoroughly before they are allowed to travel to Uganda.
However, those who travel clandestinely to run their errands have been coming under attack by Rwanda security forces, with the latest incident resulting in the shooting to death of two Ugandan businessmen.
Bodies of the two Rwandans were handed over to Ugandan authorities on Tuesday with Kigezi regional police spokesperson Elly Maate noting that re-examination of the bodies established that the two were executed at a close range “using a gun most likely a pistol.”
On Sunday evening, Rwanda National Police spokesperson Jean Bosco Kabera issued a statement in which he neither showed remorse nor condoled with the bereaved, blaming the victims for smuggling goods and “becoming violent against Rwandan security forces.”
The fatal shooting came barely 48 hours after President Paul Kagame reiterated his strong accusations against the Government of Uganda and justified the continued border closure and tensions.
“The origin of this problem is Uganda hosting negative elements who have been causing insecurity in Rwanda,” Kagame, who was addressing local and international journalists in Kigali, said.
“How do you expect countries to trade when certain citizens are arrested the moment they cross the border?” he asked. “If you are talking about trade but you arrest people crossing the border points, do you want goods to just move like these driver-less vehicles?”
Gen Kagame’s strong comments could have as well served as the catalyst to fatal impunity exhibited by his security forces at the border and further dampened hopes of amicable resolution of the diplomatic fallout.
Uganda was supposed to host Rwandan delegation in Kampala for a third round of talks but the meeting has since been pushed to November 18 to accommodate Angolan mediation team.
Opondo expressed concerns that the killings at the borders “are inimical to the ongoing efforts to improve relations between the two countries.”
“The government demands that a joint investigation in the murders be conducted and the perpetrators held accountable,” he said.
About two weeks ago, a Rwandan national was shot and wounded on Rwandan territory, and was forced to flee back to Uganda. Peter Havugimana was received after being shot in the shoulder from Rwandan side.