The Ugandan government has released another set of Rwandan nationals who have been in custody since their arrest last year over various crimes.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Sam Kutesa presided over the handover of 13 people to Noel Mucyo, the First Counsellor at Rwanda’s High Commission in Uganda to make it 24 people who have been released and handed over to Rwanda this year.
Speaking at the function, Kutesa said this was part of the Kampala establishment’s efforts to normalize tensions with their brotherly neighbours which have not been at their best for the past two or so years.
“The withdrawal of the charges from these people does not in any way suggest that they are innocent . It is simply done for government to facilitate the peace process but also to show that Uganda is committed to the implementation of the Luanda Memorandum of Understanding to normalize relations,”Kutesa said at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Kampala.
During the second meeting in Luanda two weeks ago, both presidents, Museveni and Paul Kagame of Uganda and Rwanda respectively reached a consensus to have all prisoners held in each other’s country released.
On Tuesday, Kutesa told journalists that the Uganda government has now released Rwandan nationals who had been arrested for engaging in espionage and security-related activities, their spouses and others who had been involved in several criminals activities in Uganda.
“It is Uganda’s expectation that Rwanda ensures they never return to Uganda to engage in the same activities but we also hope Rwanda will do the same by releasing Ugandan incarcerated in their country,”Kutesa said.
“We are not saying there are innocent but what we think what we are doing will help normalize relations. We hope the same can be reciprocated.”
Speaking at the function, Noel Mucyo who represented the Rwandan government said the Kigali establishment is committed to ensuring the relations between the two countries are normalized.
“The government of Rwanda is fully committed to implementing the Rwanda Memorandum of understanding,”Mucyo said.
The Foreign Affairs said during the meeting in Kigali two weeks ago, Rwandan officials said they had released some Ugandans citizens who had been arrested and detained but noted more should be released.
In the past, Rwanda has accused Uganda of arresting and detaining hundreds of their nationals, one of the reasons the Kigali establishment fronted for closing the border.
However, when asked to comment on the number of Rwandans currently detained in Uganda, Kutesa said the figure is way less than 100.
“Some of the people they are talking of are serving sentences and we think we have 39 of these. Others(they are talking of) have never been here whereas others were deported,”Kutesa said.
The development comes at a time when the two presidents are slated to meet at the border in Katuna on Friday, February 21 as part of the efforts to normalize relations.
In January this year, Uganda handed over nine Rwandan nationals to Rwanda’s High Commission in Kampala.
These had been arrested and formally charged in 2018 of unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition, but the charges were dropped by the army court as part of the Kampala establishment’s efforts to normalize relations between the two brotherly neighbours.