Kampala:Rwandan students seek asylum in Uganda over insecurity claims

The 16 students allege that in pursuit of their results withheld by the Rwanda Examinations Board, they have been threatened, arrested or beaten by security officials.

Rwandan students who entered Uganda citing security threats back home say they are also being threatened by officials from the High Commission in Uganda at their camp at Old Kampala Police Station.

Speaking to the Daily Monitor at Old Kampala yesterday, the 16, (14 boys and two girls) said the process of applying for refugee status in Uganda had been going on smoothly until a “top” official from the Rwandan High Commission intervened.

The spokesperson of the group who asked not to be named citing security reasons, said on arrival in Kampala on Monday evening and reporting at the offices of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Kololo, they were advised to go to Old Kampala Police Station to start processing their asylum papers. An official at UNHR said he is aware of the group’s case, but said the issue is still within the hands of the government of Uganda.

At Old Kampala, the group’s spokesperson says, they filled asylum registration cards but Rwanda High Commission officials intervened. “A man who identified himself as Ngarambe from the Rwanda High Commission asked to go with two of us to the Rwanda High Commission but we refused,” he said.

The Rwandan High Commissioner to Uganda, Maj Gen Frank Mugambagye, who we first contacted for a comment on Saturday, told us last evening that he needed more time to find out about the case. Mr Ibin Ssenkumbi, the police spokesperson for Kampala Metropolitan area, said he was not aware of the case.

The students’ leader said the police officer at the refugee desk then changed his mind and told the group that there was no use continuing with the process because they were going to be returned to their country anyway. The group also say they encountered hostile reception by some officials at the Office of the Prime Minister in-charge of refugees.

The group says the officer from the Rwandan High Commission threatened to pick them up from Nakivale Refugee Camp in Mbarara, if they are ever taken there, and return them to Rwanda.

Earlier threats 
It is such threats which the 16 say forced them out of Rwanda. They say the problem started when results for a total of 574 students who sat for the National Examinations 2012 were withheld by the Rwanda Examinations Board (REB).

Some of the affected students took up the matter with REB, to the Ministry of Education in Rwanda, Transparency Rwanda, the Prime Minister’s Office and finally the President’s office, all in vain.

At the President’s Office, they say, they were promised feedback in three or four days of filing their complaint. When they went back on April 18, they say 48 of them were arrested and detained by the police for “illegal gathering.” The next morning, they picked 20 of them to take up the matter with the Ombudsman, who promised to resolve the matter.

The escape
On Saturday June 1, the spokesperson said, one of the girls told the group that she had decided to run away due to the threats. “It was then that all of us discovered that we had all been threatened individually,” the spokesperson said.

By that time, they say, four of the 20 members were “no longer seen” and when they called one of them, the group spokesperson says he said, “You should leave those things.” They suspect they had given in due to threats.

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