Residents of Butanda sub-county in Kabale district staged a peaceful protest against Rwandan nationals continuing to enter Uganda through porous borders. On Sunday afternoon, locals, predominantly taxi drivers, used their vehicles to block Butanda-Rubaya-Kabale route near Habubaare Trading Centre in Butanda sub-county.
They held posters with statements like “Minister Abantu Ba Rwanda Beikiriziibwe Kugyira Enganga Muntu ibiri,” which approximately translates as “Minister, are Rwandan nationals unique in having national identity cards for two countries?”
Another protest message reads, “We have an issue with illegal entrants in our area, our leaders are corrupt and cover for illegal entrants, and Hon. Minister Bahati Tuyambe Abanyarwanda batumaraho (Hon. Minister Bahati assist us Rwandans are finishing us).”
Rwandan nationals cross from Burera district to Butanda, particularly through the porous borders of Kabere-Hakyoma, Rutare, and live in Habubaare and Bigaaga commercial centers, according to the demonstrators. They also claim that some Rwandans have recently purchased taxis and begun operating along the Butanda-Katuna-Kabale road, assisting only fellow Rwandans and charging exorbitant fees.
Locals further claim that Rwandan nationals, particularly those who have entered into the transportation business, have refused to join their groups and have threatened Ugandans when asked to do so. As residents of Bigaaga, Nickson Kanyesigye and Victor Arinda, a taxi driver, claim they have many unresolved questions.
They point out that official transportation from Butanda to Kabale town costs Shillings 10,000, but Rwandan customers happily pay between Shillings 100,000 and 500,000 per route in taxis driven by their fellow Rwandans. According to Kanyesigye and Arinda, they have acquired reliable information that Rwandan nationals who pay excessive transport fares are in violation of Rwandan security.
They want Ugandan security to investigate the situation and question all Rwandan nationals who enter the country.
According to Peter Mwijusya, the Chairperson of the Rubaya-Butanda Taxi Drivers Association, people have chosen to demonstrate since the continued unlawful immigration of Rwandans could bring instability for Ugandans due to strained relations between the two nations.
Mwijusya also believes it is unethical for Rwandans to continue unlawfully entering into Uganda and openly mixing with Ugandans without first undertaking COVID-19 testing.
Butanda Sub County LC3 Chairman Edward Champion says he is aware of Rwandans who have lately entered the taxi sector and are only driving Rwandans for Shillings 100,000-500,000 from Butanda to Kabale instead of the standard Shillings 10,000. He claims that Rwandans enter Uganda illegally under the guise of visiting family in the Bunyoro and Tooro regions, where they had established prior to the border blockade.
Champion also claims that they attended a security meeting last week and identified the necessity for security staff because the two police officers at the Butanda police station are unable to patrol the porous border. He further claims that efforts to capture illegal immigrants using village local council chairpersons have encountered a block because the majority of them are related to a Rwandan national near the border.
Elly Maate, the Kigezi Region Police Spokesperson, could not be reached for comment since his known mobile phone was not working.
Second Lieutenant General Francis Takirwa of the Uganda People’s Défense Force (UPDF)
According to the Division Commander, illegal immigrants are frequently arrested and deported as a security measure. Takirwa, on the other hand, claims that some Rwandans continue to cross porous borders out of ignorance or to provoke Uganda.
Because of the numerous permeable pathways, Takirwa claims that security is unable to deploy a soldier each metre due to staffing constraints.
On February 27, 2019, Rwanda closed its borders with Uganda. Rwandan President Paul Kagame has issued a travel warning to his country’s citizens, advising them not to travel to Uganda.
Their safety is in jeopardy. He claimed that Ugandan authorities kidnapped him.
Rwandans are being imprisoned in non-designated regions.
Since then, Ugandans who cross Rwanda’s porous borders have been met with a hostile reception by Rwandan security forces. On August 18, Justus Kabagambe, alias Kadogo, a native of Rutare village in Rugaga parish, Kabale district, was shot and killed in Kitovu village in Rwanda’s Northern Province, roughly half a kilometer from the Uganda-Rwanda border.
Rwandan security claimed to have shot Kabagambe for importing Movit Jelly items into their country after the incident. However, Rwandan authorities, led by the Burera District Police Commander, Superintendent of Police (SP) Aphrodis Nkundineza, and Marie-Chantal Uwanyirigira, the Burera District Mayor, said Kabagambe was killed for smuggling waragi alias Kanyanga into Rwanda and resisting arrest when the body was repatriated on August 29th, 2021.
Ugandan authorities, led by Kigezi Police Spokesperson Elly Maate, Kabale District Police Commander Muhammad Byansi, District Internal Security Officer Reuben Mutabazi, and District Chairman Nelson Nshangabasheija, tasked Uwanyirigira with presenting the exhibit of the waragi the deceased was smuggling in vain. Instead, she stated that the waragi rained down during the altercation. Kabagambe is the seventh Ugandan slain by Rwandan security forces since the two countries’ deadlock began.