Uganda Should Not Punish Poor Rwandans Escaping Kagame’s Poverty

Arrested Rwandans — Softpower photo

Dear President Yoweri Museveni, as you may have noticed, recently, fake news cooked a story that your Excellency and I talk regularly. I wish it were true. But it is not true — and so instead I write this open letter to appeal to you about a sad and urgent matter.

Mr. President, it is reported that 20 Rwandan illegal immigrants were not only arrested by Ugandan authorities but have also been sent to jail. These Rwandan illegal immigrants include women and children who crossed into Uganda in July 2018.

Your Excellency, when arrested and taken to court, the Rwandans pleaded guilty to escaping poverty in President Paul Kagame’s Rwanda. Claims of economic development success notwithstanding, the situation in Rwanda in dismal. Poverty is making Rwandans take desperate measures including crossing borders illegally. That is why the arrested Rwandans readily admitted to illegal entry into Uganda in desperate search of jobs.

President Museveni, I put it to you that poor immigrants crossing borders in search of work don’t deserve imprisonment. That is a double tragedy — leaving families behind in their homeland and imprisonment in the would-be host country.

President Museveni, please release these poor Rwandans. Poverty is not a crime. Desperately poor people cross borders all the time everywhere in the world. Don’t punish these poor folks for escaping Kagame’s poverty. Uganda has a great reputation for hosting refugees. Uganda is a global leader in hosting and integrating refugees. And if you don’t wish to absorb more refugees, please deport them back to Rwanda. But for God’s sake, don’t make them suffer twice — leaving their loved ones in Rwanda and ending in Uganda’s prisons.

Yours Sincerely,

David Himbara