Rwanda Government and Rwanda National Police has distanced its forces from the
deadly cross border shooting leaving many unanswered questions.
The statement follows the shooting of John Batista Nkyerengye, a Rwandan national from Nkoma cell in Ntabarwe parish in Nyakatere District and Alex Nyesiga Atuheire, a resident of Nyakabungo village in Kyabuhangwa parish in Kamwezi Sub County in Rukiga District on Friday evening.
According to eye witnesses, the two were shot dead by a Rwandan soldier at Hamisavu trading center in Mpororo in Kiruhura village in Kashekye parish in Kamwezi Sub County. Eye witnesses say that it all started when Rwandan soldiers crossed to Uganda to arrest a suspected Rwandan smuggler who tried to cross to Rwanda with second hand clothes.
The smuggler had fled back to Uganda after realizing that Rwandan security was on high alert. It is when Rwandan soldiers followed in hot pursuit in an attempt to arrest the unidentified smuggler who fled into hiding.
According to eye witnesses, a scuffle broke out when Rwandan soldiers impounded a motorcycle registration number RE736G, which the smuggler was using but met resistance from residents who accused them of crossing into Uganda illegally.
It is during the scuffle that one of the Rwandan soldiers pulled out an AK 47 that was concealed in a long coat and shot the two to death. Uganda police opened fire to disperse the Rwandan soldiers who were trying to carry the deceased’s body.
The soldiers who were over 40 in number, managed to retrieve the motorcycle, goods and the unidentified Rwandan smuggler who had escaped. Uganda’s foreign affairs ministry issued a protest note condemning the incursion by the Rwandan soldiers on Uganda’s territorial boundary and called for appropriate action against the perpetrators of the attack.
However, on Saturday evening, the Rwanda National Police Spokesperson, John Bosco Kabera issued a statement refuting the Ugandan narrative, saying the said incident occurred at Tabangwe sector in Nyagatare district.
He says Rwandan security shot Nkyerengye and Nyesiga when he turned violent and resisted arrest with the help of others people from Uganda who were armed with machetes. Kabera also notes that no further action was taken after the incident by security officials who were on patrol.
He notes that Rwandan security forces are known for professionalism and they need no lectures. Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry also says the officers opened fire in self-defense and shot two people.
The ministry also insists that no Rwandan security officer crossed into Uganda, adding that once the mob crossed back into Uganda with their wounded associates, Rwandan security ceased pursuit.
Observations by Our Reporter
URN spent the entire Saturday at Hamisavu trading Centre where Ugandan police officers led by Richard Ecega, Kigezi Region Police Commander had cordoned off the crime scene.
Pierre Tebuka, the Nyagatare District Police Commander in Rwanda, Emmanuel Hatari, the Eastern Province Region Police Commander and other security officers crossed into Uganda on Saturday evening in civilian attire with authorization from Ecega to inspect the crime scene.
It is unclear how Ncherengye’s body moved from the Rwandan side to Uganda as claimed by the Rwandan authorities. It is also unclear how; Nyesiga walked from Rwanda to Kamwezi Health Centre IV in Uganda where he breathed his last yet the Rwandan soldiers claim he was shot in Tabangwe sector in Rwanda.
It is also unclear why the Rwanda National Police statement indicates that Ncherengye was the one smuggling second hand clothes on a motorcycle to Rwanda yet eye witnesses, say the unidentified smuggler took off to unidentified location. It is also unclear why Rwandan security officials crossed to Uganda to access the scene of crime yet they claim that the victims were shot in Rwanda.
By Sunday afternoon, heavily armed police was still deployed on both sides of the border. Bodies of the deceased were still lying at Kabale Regional Referral Hospital mortuary. Ugandan authorities will hand Ncherengye’s body to the Rwandan government at Katuna border at Katuna border on Monday, according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry statement.
This isn’t the first time Rwandan soldiers are shooting at suspected smugglers. On May 3, 2019, Rwandan soldiers shot Innocent Ndahimana, a beans trader and resident of Nyakabungo Village in Chumbe in Gicumbi District Northern Province in Rwanda while smuggling beans to Uganda through Katuna border in Kabale district.
Rwanda closed its borders with Uganda on February 27, 2019 to purportedly expedite the construction of the single customs at Gatuna border. Rwanda advised truck drivers destined to Kigali to use Kagitumba border via Mirama Hills.
However, Rwandan officials including President, Paul Kagame later accused Ugandan authorities of abducting its citizens and locking them up in ungazetted areas. Rwanda also accused Uganda of hosting and facilitating dissidents especially Rwanda National Congress-RNC and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda FDLR, which have declared war on the Kigali government.
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 stuffs and goods.