Rwandan officers flee to Uganda
By Grace Matsiko & Andrew Mwenda
July 4, 2004

KAMPALA -- Three Rwandan army officers and a police officer have fled to Uganda alleging persecution at home. Lt. Col. John Gashugi, Capt. Robert Mugabe, Lt. Robert Mugisha, Inspector of Police Makwande Mugisha and a civilian, Mr Dan Sande, sneaked into Uganda recently and have been under Ugandan government custody, according to a source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The source said yesterday that Gashugi is reported to have been undeployed following his suspension from duty for alleged fraud. Lt. Mugisha is said to have been a liaison officer for the Rwandan military at the Uganda-Rwanda border at Gatuna. The source said Uganda had already informed Rwanda and the British government about the matter.

Britain has been mediating in the conflict between Uganda and Rwanda, which accuse each other of harbouring either country’s deserters.

The source said the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence had interviewed the Rwandan officers who are seeking asylum. The Acting CMI Chief, Lt. Col. James Mugira, said last evening that Uganda was awaiting a reply from the UNHCR to relocate the group to another country.

“It’s true they arrived here and we immediately communicated to the Rwandan delegation on the joint military verification team. Arrangements have been underway to hand them over to UNHCR in accordance with our understanding with Rwanda on how to handle such cases,” Mugira said, but declined to give details. Rwandan government spokesman, Mr Joseph Bideri, declined to comment.

A Ugandan Foreign Ministry source said the government, through its representative on the joint military verification committee, Lt. Col. John Kasaija, recently notified the British military attaché in Kampala, Lt. Col. Chris Wilton, about the defectors. The notice was reportedly copied to the Rwandan representatives on the same committee.

There have been similar defections to either country in the past years. Recent defections included six human rights activists who fled Kigali after the Rwandan government banned their group for preaching what it called “genocidal ideology.”

The six members of the League for Promotion and Defence of Human Rights, (known as Liprodor in French), crossed the border on July 8.

Rwandan MPs accused Liprodor of backing a Hutu opposition politician who they allege was stirring up ethnic divisions in the country.

© 2004 The Monitor Publications