My name is Alex Odagui I have been working in Rwanda as a teacher at City Infants primary school in Kigali for 10 years teaching in primary six class. On the 22 October 2020 I went back to Rwanda for work because I have a visa and work permit valid till 2021. I got my COVID 19 certificate and headed to Rwanda via Katuna border post.
I was cleared by the immigration on the Ugandan side at around 8am and crossed to the Rwandan side. When I got there, a policeman intercepted me before I could access the immigration office. He got my particulars but he was writing them into his smart phone. To whom he was sending them to was unknown. He later cleared me to the immigration office. When I reached the office, the immigration officer who was a lady who could speak Luganda, English and Kinyarwanda asked me why I had come back well knowing the border was closed.
I told her I had contacted the Rwandan embassy in Uganda and they told me I could travel back because I was permitted as a returnee. She later got my passport, and made a call to one Moise (French) (Moses) because she addressed him by name. She tells him over the phone that there is a Ugandan working in Rwanda who wants to proceed to Kigali.
He asks her if I have a permit, visa and details of where I am going. I replied to all those questions in affirmative. She asked me if I could get a car to transport me to a hotel, quarantine there and get tested later because they couldn’t trust my COVID 19 certificate from Uganda.
I made some calls to my workmates to organize some money for my travel. They told me to wait and see if they could find some money. However, during that period, an elderly Rwandese who said she had come from Kenya for treatment also found me at the office. A young boy of 11 years who was a student in Uganda but of Rwandese origin also met me there.
A certain young man also came and found me there. So in total we were 4 people. I kept in contact with my workmates and parents to get me some money but in vain. That was around 5pm. I informed the lady that I can’t find money to transport and pay for isolation.
I asked if she could allow me to get a car and I reach Kigali because I could then sign a
Cheque for the expenses. She refused after consulting with Moses on phone. She asked me if I could be taken to their isolation center. I accepted because it was the only option left. At around 6:30pm, a policeman came to take us to the center.
We walked out of the border to a distant trading center called “Mugatoki”. There was a road block manned by police officers on the highway and when they saw us coming towards the so called “hotel” which we later on learnt was a police cell.
They had to separate the elderly lady from us the gents. The lady was taken to her separate room escorted by the policeman, who opened the padlock of the room only for us to get shocked by someone who happened to be a lady coming from the room carrying a bench. The police man told the lady to take the bag inside the room.
He later came to escort us to our room only for our eyes to land on a room locked by handcuffs as a padlock. On opening the door, we were told to enter the room only to find a young man sleeping on the floor shivering because of the coldness. It was one of my worst experiences in life. We all remained silent for like 5mins in disbelief of what had happened.
The guy in the prison decided to start up a conversation with us by asking why we had been brought there. We told him we have been brought to the isolation center. I later asked him why he is in a cell. He told me that he had been there for 2 days accused of stealing clothes.
We remained locked up in the room for an hour waiting for a car to transport us to the isolation center with all the bad smell in the room. After an hour of waiting, a police officer came to the cell and told us to pack our luggage because the car had arrived. He hand cuffed the guy and opened the door.
We walked to the waiting double cabin car and by then our numbers had increased to 7. Two ladies now and one had a baby of like 7months. We sat behind the cabin the lady with her child, the four men and an armed Police officer.
The old lady sat in front with the driver and another police officer. We started moving towards Byumba where we were told that it’s where the quarantine center was.
However, to remind you I got my passport at around 6 pm and checked if they had stamped for me entry and realized that there are two stamps inside. One was stamped and cancelled and another stamped with entry. I wanted to inquire but when I saw the entry stamp I ignored hoping she had made a mistake.
We drove for like 1hr and suddenly the vehicle stopped. I was terrified because no one was coming out of the car and we had an armed Police officer behind us in a busy place. After 10 minutes the vehicle begun to move again.
The police officer at the back asked us when is Museveni opening the border and we replied that we don’t know. After some hours of travel, we reached a trading center called Rukomo. It has a roundabout that leads to Kigali, Byumba and Rukomo sector. We stopped for a few minutes and the vehicle made a turn as if moving towards Kigali but instead took to a stony road into the hills. It was around 8:30pm very dark and cold.
We headed to an unknown place which we later came to discover was a prison (Rukomo RCS). It was another shocker.
From a cell to prison. Later, the guy who was handcuffed was told to disembark and was handed over to the prison authorities. We were happy to move out of the prison. We now headed to the isolation center of Rukomo.
Hungry and tired. The policemen who were in charge of the center received us and the site manager gave us mattress, a blanket, plate and cup. They are told to find for us rooms to sleep in. They couldn’t mix us since me and the elderly lady had been tested and the people we met at the center had been tested too.
So we the men were put in a room and the ladies inside the ladies room with their children but separated with distance.
There was nothing similar to an isolation center because people inside the gents room were over 50 and slept on mattresses on the floor that were joined together. We slept on an empty stomach despite the promises that we were to be given food and good care. We were told that there was special meals charged at 2500francs a day and free meals for those who can’t afford.
However, the meals we got were beans mixed with maize grains (envungure) served at around 3pm which was both lunch and supper and a cup of porridge served at 11am.This we ate for 7days. We weren’t allowed to move out of the rooms. Only if you had to go for water you were escorted by policemen.
On the 27 October, the medical doctors came and took our samples. They later asked us who of us hadn’t been interrogated by RIB (Rwanda Investigation Bureau) .We registered our names and when my time came for questioning I was called.
They asked me information about my particulars, how long I have been in the country, why I have been in the country, where I live both in Rwanda and Uganda, how long I had been in Uganda, if I had a visa and work permit, contacts both in Uganda and Rwanda etc and all this information was being inserted into their laptop and others on their note books. However, the questions were strange with almost no answers.
These were the questions.
1. Why do you kill us?
2. Why do you torture, beat and imprison us and yet we don’t do that to you?
3. Do you know Kayumba Nyamwasa?
4. Has he sent you here?
5. Are you his spy?
I told them, I spend less than a month in a year in Uganda, I have been living and working there (Rwanda) for more than 10years and I never mingle in politics because it has never put food on my table.
Later, they told me to go back to the room. This was done to everyone at the center more than 120 people men, women and children same questions. This was especially to people who had crossed the border from Uganda legally like us, illegal, smugglers and people who had been arrested for dealing in Kanyanga (local waragi) people who broke COVID rules all in one room.
The results came in on Thursday at around 4:30pm and I was released to proceed to Kigali. I went back to my place in Kigali to prepare for school on Monday 2nd November. On Monday I got to work and did my normal business. At 12pm one of my colleagues informed me that there is a parent who wanted to talk to me.
He was in his car because they had told him to wait for me to end my lesson since it was approaching lunch time. After the bell rung, I went to meet the man. He introduced himself as a new parent who had a child in a government school and was poor at English and needed help. However, during that interaction, the driver moved out of the car and took my photo and I thought maybe he was interested in the surrounding of the school. We exchanged contacts and arranged to meet after class. I resumed my duties and at 3:30pm the guy called and told me it was raining and he would meet me at school at 4pm.
During that time of waiting, I was doing some work in the Head master’s office and three gentlemen entered the office and asked for the H/M. I moved out of the office and after a few minutes I received a call from H/M informing me that i was the one needed. I came back to the office and they told me I had issues with my Visa that I needed to sort out in their office.
I told them that I needed to get my passport which was home. They accepted to drive me to my home to pick it up. However, when I entered into the double cabin. I was made to sit in the middle of two men. This was strange and I asked them if I was under arrest. They told me, why I thought so. I replied to them that it’s strange to be in-between two men with an empty co-driver seat. They told me to relax.
We drove home and noticed that there was another car that was following us behind. On reaching home, they escorted me up to inside the house and I picked my passport.
However, they asked me to pick a few clothes that I might need. I asked them if am being deported back. Because if it was going to their office why do I then need to go with some clothes. They replied that they have a vehicle that they were bringing me back in case I had sorted issues with them. I smelt a rat. I had some money in the house amounting to 800,000francs and put it in my laptop bag.
We drove to Immigration office Kacyiru and while inside their offices they told me a decision had been taken to deported me back. I told them it was okay but I needed to be told the reason why. They refused to tell me but put me inside the double cabin and we went to refuel.
We travelled to Katuna and mid-way the journey they told me to hand over the money since it belonged to them. I did that with no option. I was driven up to the border and escorted out and warned not to say anything since they are all around. I was dumped at the border with no coin to transport me or even do a COVID test on the Ugandan side. I was forcefully deported from Rwanda, robbed of my money, lost my house hold property.
I want to seek redress from offices but I don’t know where to start. All my house hold property was taken because I called my landlord and he told me everything was taken the following day. He later told me not to call him again and blocked my number.
N.B: you can follow me at – Robert Patrick Fati Gakwerere page (Facebook page), @RGakwerere (tweeter) or at my blog – rpfgakwerere.org.
However, for those in the enclave – Rwanda, the blog rpfgakwerere.org was blocked by the junta regime, it can’t be accessed unless you are using VPN.