There is tension along the Uganda-Rwanda border of Katuna after Rwandan security officials shot two of their nationals who had allegedly crossed into Uganda to smuggle Irish Potatoes.
The shooting happened 300 meters away from the Ugandan border. One of the two victims was identified as Jean Pierre Havugimana, 28, a resident of Kabaya village in Northern Rwanda. The other person could not readily be identified by the time of filing this report.
The two victims had reportedly crossed into Uganda through a porous border at Rushaki in Karujanga, Katuna Town Council to purchase Irish potatoes that they would letter import into Rwanda.
According to the Kigezi region police spokesperson, Mr Elly Maate, said each of the victims was carrying 50 kilogrammes of Irish potatoes from Uganda to Rwanda at the time they were shot at.
After the shooting, Havugimana fled back to Uganda. He was first admitted at Katuna Community Medical Clinic and later referred to Rushoroza Hospital in Kabale town for further treatment, while his colleague, was whisked away by Rwandan security officials to an unknown destination.
Katuna Town Council Chairman Nelson Nshangabasheija said the shooting which lasted for about 30 minutes created fear among residents along the border adding that Rwandan nationals have continued to sneak into Uganda looking for food and other necessities after they waited for the border to open in vain.
Ugandan nationals at the border live in fear because they are at risk as some Rwandan security operatives use shooting as an immediate option to people who illegally cross instead of arresting them.
We also learnt that Rwandan nationals are forcing themselves to cross into Uganda in Katuna because it is a major source of food and many of them have relatives who live there and the border closure has completely suffocated business at the border.
However, this is not the first time that Rwandan soldiers are accused of shooting at suspected smugglers. On May 3, 2019, Rwandan soldiers shot Innocent Ndahimana, a resident of Nyakabungo Village in Rwanda, who was found smuggling beans to Uganda through Katuna border in Kabale District.
In May 2019, John Batista Kyerengye, a resident of Nkoma cell, Rwanda and Alex Nyesiga Atuheire, a resident of Nyakabungo village in Kamwezi Sub County in Rukiga District were shot dead by Rwandan security operatives at Hamisavu Trading Centre in Kiruhura village Kamwezi sub-county. The duo was killed during fights between the Rwandan soldiers and residents during the arrest of a suspected smuggler in Hamisavu trading centre.
Rwanda closed its borders with Uganda in February 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.
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.