On February 7, 2019, Ugandan security operatives raided a Kampala-bound Jaguar Bus for a routine inspection.
During the search, several Rwandans were picked from the rest of other travelers and detained at Kisoro Police Station.
This followed a tip-off to Ugandan intelligence about a trip of suspected Rwandan state agents to Uganda.
The arrested Rwandans were subjected to intense questioning by Uganda’s immigration officials.
Unlike in the past when civilians ran the show, the current immigration department is headed by a military officer at the rank of Brigadier General – Apollo Kasiita.
Kasiita, whose subordinates are also experienced military officers, have the responsibility of “enhancing national security and providing better services to the public through strengthening border security controls as well as checking illegal immigrants,” according to defence spokesperson, Brig Richard Karemire.
The whereabouts of the suspects is unknown, according to Rwandan officials.
Ugandan police spokesperson Fred Enanga was not readily available for comment on Friday morning.
The incident comes against the backdrop of increased arrests of Rwandans traveling to Uganda.
While Kigali says the Rwandans are harassed and mistreated, Kampala believes its security agencies are cracking down on spies sent to destabilize Uganda.
The tension between Uganda and Rwanda has worsened in recent months with many fearing the possibility of an serious confrontation.
On its part, Kigali accuses Uganda of quietly supporting the FDLR, a DRC-based militia whose leadership is accused of perpetrating the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Uganda is yet to respond to the accusations.
However, President Museveni on Thursday said he has been discussing the FDLR issue with former Congolese leader Joseph Kabila and his successor Felix Tshisekedi.
“I have been in touch with former President Kabila and now President Felix Tshisekedi about solving the problem of ADF and Interahamwe (FDLR),” said Museveni, who was hosting investors at State House Entebbe.
Museveni said the problem with DR Congo is lack of security that affects both Congo and its neighbours.
“Even with insecurity trade is going on. We shall solve this,” he said.
ChimpReports understands Uganda’s military intelligence has been at the forefront of cracking down what is known as “sleeper cells” of Rwandan agents.
It started with the crackdown of Boda Boda 2010 led by Abdullah Kittata, a close associate of Gen Kale Kayihura.
Earlier, the military intelligence had ambushed and arrested Lt Rene Rutagungira, a former Rwandan army officer who is said to have led Rwanda’s intelligence operations in Uganda.
These operations included kidnaps of Rwandan fugitives and refugees who were repatriated to Uganda.
Rutagungira, who is currently facing charges of illegal refugee repatriations before Makindye General Court Martial, was put under surveillance by military intelligence for about a week before he was forcefully removed from a bar in Old Kampala.
He eventually was taken to military intelligence headquarters in Mbuya for questioning before his detention at Makindye military barracks.
An official told us in our investigation that Rutagungira was told to open messages on his cellphone from where the military obtained “incriminating evidence.”
“Of course, the phones betrayed him. Because this was a surprise arrest. He never expected anything like this. From his phone, investigators were able to draw a network of the Rwandan agents in Uganda and their operations,” a source said.
“Some people would receive money from his mobile phone. So we would ask those people what service they were rendering to Rutagungira? What was Rutagungira paying for? Slowly, we got to the bottom of his activities and most of his accomplices were arrested in due course. Some were deported and others prosecuted,” the contact added.
Rwanda has since informally listed some of her people detained by the military.
They include Peter Siborurema who was arrested in March 2018, Emmanuel Rwamucyo, a businessman from Isingiro, Augustin Rutayisire, Eric Rugorotsi and Bernard Kwizera among others.
Rugorotsi and Kwizera are said to have been in illegal possession of firearms.
After Rutagungira’s arrest, the military struck at the heart of Boda Boda 2010 which is said to have been infiltrated by Rwanda.
Multiple officials said Boda Bodas provide quick means of transport which wrong elements can use to execute deadly missions during turbulent political times.
“With a Boda, you can easily drop an explosive in a building or shoot someone and disappear in thin air. And Boda Boda 2010 had many criminals which we had to deal with. When the rose in arms and tried to burn down Kampala after the arrest of Gen Kale Kayihura, they were put to order,” said an official briefed about the unfolding security developments in the country and region.
Additionally, Ugandan officials have expressed concern over the “show of force” by the Rwanda Defence Forces in recent months.
President Kagame last wore a ceremonial military uniform about a decade ago.
But the President has in recent months attended several military activities such as training exercises and a high command meeting donned in full military uniform.
Rarely does RDF release pictures of its high command meetings.
However, this week, the army released dozens of pictures of Kagame in full military uniform alongside his generals – Patrick Nyamvumba and James Kabarebe, a presidential defence advisor.
Even during his days as defence minister, Kabarebe rarely wore military uniform.
Observers say RDF is “sending a message” as part of their “psychological operations.”
Those in the know say Rwanda is warning Uganda and Burundi about its preparedness to deal with any eventuality.
Speaking at the National Dialogue in Kigali last year, Kagame accused Rwanda’s neighbours of harboring Rwandan dissidents.
“You cannot use your sovereignty to allow your territory to be used to compromise the security of your neighbors. That is not regional integration,” he said, in a veiled swipe at President Museveni who has for decades championed the idea of regional integration.
He did not mention which country serves as a sanctuary of dissidents.
But Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a diplomatic note to Uganda on December 12 its “most concerning” issue is the “facilitation of recruitment and travel in the region of Rwandans in possession of Ugandan travel documents, of whom are mostly from refugee camps in Uganda, for the benefit of the terrorist group known as Rwanda National Congress (RNC).”
Rwanda further added: “Information in our possession has revealed that this network has intentions to cross from Uganda into Tanzania and eventually end up in DRC in the RNC camps.”
On its part, the Ugandan government also appeared to show its support for the military intelligence by handing the outfit’s leader, Brigadier Abel Kandiho, the Rwenzori medal at the recently concluded Tarehe Sita celebrations in Kitgum.
At the same function, Museveni warned against any attempts to destabilize Uganda.
“When I read intelligence reports I feel pity for Africans. Anybody who thinks they can disturb Uganda, they are destroying themselves,” warned Museveni.
“For us we never attack anybody who is innocent but if you are foolish and think you can destabilize Uganda, you will destroy yourself,” he warned.
Still at the heart of Uganda’s problems with Rwanda is Burundi, whose leader, Pierre Nkurunziza recently described Rwanda as an “enemy state.”
Multiple Rwandan officials said Uganda has a soft spot for Burundi which the United Nations investigators recently accused of providing military logistics to a Rwandan rebel movement operating in DRC. Burundi denied the charge as unfounded.
Nevertheless, ChimpReports understands that President Museveni on February 1 at State Lodge, Nakasero met with the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Burundi, Mr. Michael Kafando.
The UN official, who was accompanied by the UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda, Ms. Rose Malango, carried a “special message” from the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Antonio Guterres, appreciating him for his endless efforts towards keeping the East African Region safe.
According to State House, President Museveni emphasized the importance of “regional consultation” and told the envoy that “discussions, to solve the Rwanda-Burundi issue, will be held later this month.”