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Why the Banyarwanda question and the land issue are inseparable

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Between the 16th and 19th Centuries, there existed the state of Mpororo which stretched to parts of the present day Ankole, Kigezi and Rwanda.  Its ruling family has close ties with the ruling families of the Tutsi in the ancient kingdom of Rwanda. The collapse of the State of Mpororo gave rise to the Kingdom of Ankole which incorporated some of Mpororo territories.

In the pre-colonial Kingdom of Rwanda, Tutsi occupied a higher strata in the social system while the Hutu occupied a lower strata. The Kingdom was ruled by a Tutsi monarchy and the Tutsi were cattle keepers while the Hutu were cultivators.  A Hutu could be assimilated into Tutsi if he accumulated wealth in terms of cattle in a process called Kwihutura and a poor Tutsi could be regarded as a Hutu. By comparison, the Tutsi are the equivalent of Hima in Ankole or Balangira in Buganda while the Hutu are the equivalent of Bairu in Ankole and Bakopi in Buganda.

During the Partition of Africa by colonialists, some Banyarwanda were left out of the original Rwanda empire.  Those who remained under the Belgium Congo in areas of Mulenge Hills came to be known as Banyamulenge and those in areas of Rushuru and Misisi came to be known as Banyarushuru and Banyamisisi respectively.  Those near the Bufumbira ranges came to be known as Bafumbira when the present-day Kisoro was added to Uganda in 1918.  In the early 1920s some Banyarwanda, mainly Hutu and a few Tutsi, escaped Belgian colonial repression and Tutsi enforced labour and fled to Uganda. These were mainly petty Tutsi cattle herders and majority Hutu agriculturalists.  The estimated 120,000 migrants settled mainly in the South Western region of Buganda and some parts of Ankole and Kigezi as farm labourers.  The 1921 census report identified Banyarwanda as a tribe in Uganda after Kisoro had been added on Uganda in 1918.

In 1926 the Belgian colonialists in Rwanda made some reforms in labour laws where by, subjects were allowed to seek employment abroad.  Many Banyarwanda, more especially Hutu who were under the yoke of forcefully working for Tutsi under the Ubuhake arrangement left Rwanda for Tanzania, Uganda, and Congo.  The exodus of Banyarwanda continued through the 1930s and 1940s but this time as economic immigrants. They were coming in search of economic survival by way of casual labour and settled in Buganda, Ankole, Busoga, Kigezi, Tooro, and Bunyoro. They worked on fields of agriculture, construction, local government, industries, ginning, cattle herding, forestry, fishing, Kilembe Copper Mines, sugar and cotton plantations in Busoga etc.

Hutus assimilated in Buganda while Tutsi assimilated in Ankole through intermarriage with Hima. They took on local names and clans, spoke the local languages, intermarried and acquired land as tenants (Bakopi).  Together with their Burundian cousins, they were actively involved in the Baganda led Bataka Movement that was agitating for land rights. It was a coalition of indigenous Baganda peasants, tenants and labourers (Abapakasi) seeking land rights.  In the 1940s, almost 35% of migrants in Buganda were from Burundi and Rwanda.

From the foregoing, it can be authoritatively argued that up to the late 1950s Banyarwanda in Uganda were of two categories. First were the indigenous Banyarwanda who had been made part of Uganda by colonial boundaries demarcations like in the case of those from Kisiro who chose to call themselves Bafumbira.  Then there were the migrants who came to look for economic opportunities and mostly settled in Buganda and Ankole.

Between 1952 and 1959, the Belgian colonialists began putting in place political reforms in preparation for relinquishing their hold on Rwanda.  The Tutsi formed a Union Nationale Du Rwanda (UNAR) as a pro monarchy movement.  The Hutu had earlier formed the Party for the Emancipation of Hutu (PARMHUTU).  The reforms by Belgians challenged the status quo of the Tutsi establishment/monarchy. In early November 1959, Tutsi UNAR youth wingers attacked a prominent Hutu Sub Chief, Mbonyiumutwa, but he managed to escape.  However, rumours spread that he had been killed. Consequently, Hutu resorted to reprisal attacks against the Tutsi.  The violence marked the start of an uprising that has been branded a Hutu Peasant Revolution. It marked the beginning of the end of Tutsi domination and opened a new chapter of Hutu/Tutsi ethnic tensions.

Hundreds of Tutsi were killed, property was destroyed and thousands fled to Congo and Uganda.  The Belgians worked with the Tutsi monarchy to take control of the late ugly 1959 situation.  Prior to the arrival of Banyarwanda refugees in late 1959, earlier during the same year government conducted a census that revealed that Banyarwanda in Uganda were the sixth largest ethnic group after Baganda, Iteso, Banyankole, Basoga, and Bakiga. This earlier Banyarwanda migrants’ arrival provided a local texture into which the new arrivals, refugees could merge. The demand for labour and the physical appearance had helped intermarriage but the tag of foreigners endured thus they were a prey to political machinations.

In October 2009 during the AU summit on refugees in Kampala, Museveni argued that; ” why don’t we think of refugees outside camps because land will not always be there”.

Earlier before 2009, the Belgians in Rwanda had notified their British counterparts in Uganda about a planned exodus of Tutsi from Rwanda to Uganda.  The British colonialists passed Legal Notice No. 311 of 1959 declaring any such people unwelcome and illegal in Uganda.  The Governor, Sir Charles Hartwell addressed the LEGCO (Parliament) thus “…there was no political persecution in Rwanda. The Tutsi who are fleeing Rwanda were either misinformed about the situation in Rwanda or were political criminals.” Members of the LEGCO from the areas where the fleeing Tutsi were settling, Ankole and Kigezi, the likes of Hon. Bikangaga, Hon Katiiti and Hon Babiiha supported the protectorate government. However, the LEGCO members from the north and eastern regions like Hon. Milton Obote, Hon. Obwangor, and Hon. Nadiope vehemently opposed the protectorate government.

On 29th February 1960, Dr. Milton Obote moved a motion on the floor of LEGCO calling for the revocation of Tutsi Immigration Rule, thus; “…. the rule of terror was so bad that the people of Rwanda wanted to seek safety somewhere. A number of them wanted to be refugees in Uganda. But I wish the house to know that they did not come as ordinary immigrants.  They were running away from acts of violence which were the order of the day in the country. Indeed, these people are kinsmen of the people of Ankole of Uganda and the only thing that anyone of them could do was to go to his fellow brother to seek for his safety. I am pleading for the whole of the Batutsi tribe who came to Uganda to seek for safety.  I am pleading for the case of a people who are now being ruled by another race. I am pleading for the principle of offering asylum to those who need it.”  Those against, argued that “…….it was impossible to accommodate such a big number of illegal immigrants with their cattle anywhere in the country, especially since western Uganda was already overstocked, overgrazed, lacked water, and the cattle the Tutsi brought with them were diseased and would spread disease in the country.”  The motion was defeated.

In 1961 the UN supervised elections in Rwanda were won by the Hutu party, PARPEHUTU.  Violent ethnic clashes ensued and more refugees fled to Uganda, Tanzania, Congo and Burundi.  Around that time, the British in Uganda were also grappling with political violence and instability in some parts of Buganda, Bukedi, Bugisu, and Tooro.  However, Refugee Reception Centres were set up at Kamweezi in Kigezi and Kizinga in Rwampara.  Some refugees dodged these reception centres by simply going straight to their relatives who had arrived much earlier and settled in Ankole and Kigezi.  In 1960 the Uganda government put in place a law, Control of Alien Refugee Act 1960 which prevented these refugees from accessing citizenship by naturalisation.  S.18 stipulated that; “No period spent in Uganda as a refugee shall be deemed to be a qualification for being a resident of Uganda.”

In Rwanda, the Tutsi King, Kigeri was deposed and he fled to Uganda where he was a guest of the Kabaka of Buganda, Muteesa who at that time was the President of Uganda.  In July 1961 Tutsi refugees in Uganda under the umbrella organisation, INYENZI attacked Rwanda but were repulsed.  They attacked again in May 1962 and were repulsed again.  The Uganda government warned the refugees against using Uganda as a base to attack Rwanda.  In all the attacks, the Tutsi inside Rwanda were left vulnerable to reprisal attacks and hence more were fleeing.  In 1962 the government set up the first refugee camps at Nakivaale in Ankole.   The deposed Rwanda King’s loyalists, ABADAHEMUKA linked with the Kabaka’s party, KY (Kabaka Yeka) at a time when there was friction between Buganda and the central government over lost counties.

In March 1963, Prime Minister, Milton Obote warned refugees against incursions into Rwanda thus; “If hospitality is abused, we have no alternative but to withdraw the protection we granted to these people.”   In late 1963, the then Minister of Community Development, Kalule Ssetalla told Parliament that thousands of Tutsi refugees had been continuing to pour into Uganda with tens of thousands of their heads of cattle.  During the same year, government set up Oruchinga and Ibuga refugee camps in Ankole and Kasese, respectively.  The following year, in 1964, four more camps were set up at Kahunge, Rwamwanja and Kyaka in Tooro and Kyangwali in Bunyoro.

With the fall out between the central government and Buganda Kingdom, the UPC government under Prime Minister Obote expelled the Tutsi King Kigeri who relocated to Kenya.  The pressure had also come from Hutu refugees for the government to prevail over Tutsi invasion of Rwanda.  The law of refugees was also amended to prohibit anyone from keeping refugees without permission from government.  Refugees were also required to stay in designated refugee settlements.  The Director of Refugees was also given powers to deport any refugee who violated the law and those who did not meet the asylum criteria.

In setting up the camps, the government had anticipated that the refugees would stay for a short time and return to Rwanda.  Between 1960 and 1964,  half of an estimated 120,000 Tutsi who fled Rwanda came to Uganda.  Some 40,000 went to Burundi, 60,000 went to Congo, 35,000 came to Uganda and 15,000 went to Tanzania. By 1967 about 300,000 Tutsi and a few Hutu elites had fled Rwanda.  In 1968 Oxfam International appealed to the International community for a special fund to help in the repatriation of Banyarwanda refugees.

The refugees did not show any interest of repatriating and the government got convinced that they were bent on remaining in Uganda. The then Information Minister, Adoko Nekyon, told the OAU summit in Lagos, “……Uganda has no alternative but to send these people away, unless Uganda receives help.” He added that the same refugees were selling off government assistance to buy arms and to raise money for King Kigeri’s upkeep in Kenya.

The hospitality and generosity by locals also ran out due to a number of factors.  In Buganda, the peasants called on government to expel Banyarwanda whom they accused of taking their land.  In Ankole, the rivalry was based on the ethnic connection between the low caste, Baitu/Hutu and the high caste Hima/Tutsi alliances.  The predominantly Catholic DP (Democratic Party) alliance with the predominantly Catholic Banyarwanda refugees against the predominantly Protestant UPC was another factor.  The UPC government banned Banyarwanda refugees from having ID cards and taking on government jobs.  UPC also planned for a countrywide census of indigenous Banyarwanda but before it could be implemented, Iddi Amin overthrew the UPC government in 1971. The violent political crisis in Rwanda triggered a fresh exodus of Tutsi refugees from Rwanda.  Between 500,000 – 600,000 Banyarwanda Tutsi refugees were spread throughout the Great Lakes region but not all of them were registered under the UNHCR.  Uganda had only 82,000 registered refugees.

Iddi Amin invited, welcomed, and hosted King Kigeri from Kenya and settled him in Kampala. Banyarwanda refugees were allowed to join the public service, the security forces including the dreaded Public Safety Unit (PSU) and State Research Bureau (SRB) where a number of Banyarwanda was dominant. It is a fact that the Banyarwanda spies under the Iddi Amin regime helped in containing the activities of the anti-Iddi Amin dissidents and in particular the 1972 invasion from Tanzania.

Note: The forward base of the Tanzania based dissidents had been Kagera region which is another Banyarwanda stronghold.  The Banyarwanda refugees in the security agencies terrorised and murdered perceived regime opponents.  It’s during the Iddi Amin regime that a number of Banyarwanda refugees managed to get out of refugee settlements and acquire land, jobs and business enterprises.

In 1978,  Iddi Amin blamed the Banyarwanda refugees for sabotaging government’s political and economic policies.  He reverted to the 1971 order by deposed President Obote for all refugees to register with government and to be confined in settlement camps.  As had been the case with Obote in 1971, even before Iddi Amin could implement this directive, he was overthrown in April 1979.

Meanwhile, Museveni who had been involved in anti-Amin campaigns had managed to recruit a Munyarwanda refugee, Fred Rwigyema in 1976 from Mbarara High School whom he took to Tanzania as part of his 28 man FRONASA that he claims to have got training in Mozambique.  In 1978 when the Tanzanian troops crossed the Uganda/Tanzania border against Iddi Amin, Museveni recruited a number of Banyarwanda refugees from the refugee settlements of Nakivaale and Oruchinga.  By the time the war against Iddi Amin ended, Museveni’s FRONASA had a sizeable number of Hima and Banyarwanda refugees.

During the process of reconstructing the new post Iddi Amin Uganda army, it was agreed that Banyarwanda refugees should be eliminated on account of their being non-citizens.  Consequently, a number of Banyarwanda refugees including Fred Rwigyema were dropped.  Paul Kagame survived because at that time he was attending a military intelligence course.  But still a sizeable number of Banyarwanda refugees remained in the UNLA because it was difficult to accurately tell a Munyarwanda Tutsi from a Munyankole Hima.  Museveni who was the Minister of Defence retained these rejected Banyarwanda refugee soldiers as his private army.

In 1980, Museveni contested for the presidency in the general elections by founding the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM).  The main contestant, UPC,  was warry of Banyarwanda refugees voting for the Catholic dominated DP.  In Museveni’s newly found home, Nyabushozi, he was branded a ‘stranger and migrant’ and totally rejected in favor of Sam Kuteesa of DP.

Actually, some Banyankole including ethnic Bahima out rightly branded Museveni a Munyarwanda.  After loosing the presidential bid in December 1980, Museveni took to the bush to start a guerrilla war in January 1981.  He took with him the Banyarwanda refugee soldiers who had been eliminated from the national army.  Museveni’s choice of Luwero triangle as his theatre of war was precipitated by the presence of large numbers of Tutsi Banyarwanda migrants and casual labourers in those vast savanna lands. They were always in land conflict with the Baganda landlords and ranch owners.

Banyarwanda refugee soldiers were among the squad that Museveni used to launch the first attack on Kabamba barracks in February 1981.  They took part in the March 6th, 1981 ambush on government troops at Lawanda where over 70 soldiers lost their lives. They took part in the ambush and destruction of a civilian bus on Bombo road in which over 40 innocent civilians were killed.  Refugee settlements and other Banyarwanda refugees settled outside the camps became NRA’s main source of recruitment, logistical supply and intelligence.

Note:  In July 2016 Museveni visited the family of the late Gregory Karuretwa in Kigali, Rwanda.  He described him as “a Bush War hero who had migrated to Uganda in the 1960s and settled in Sembabule as a refugee.  He recruited combatants, provided food and finance.”  Earlier, this gentleman had been invited to Uganda to be awarded the Nalubaale Medal (pictured). The late Fred Rwigyema’s mother is also staying at the Karuretwa family home.

It became an open secret that Banyarwanda refugees were closely associated with Museveni’s NRA rebels.  The UPC members of parliament attempted to move a motion on the floor of parliament on expelling Banyarwanda refugees but it was defeated.  Instead, a proposal was floated for refugees scattered in the countryside to move into refugee settlements.

The UNHRC representative in Uganda, Tom Inwin, vehemently protested against the government plans to push refugees into camps.  This implied that it was not the UPC as a party that was against Banyarwanda but individual UPC stalwarts mostly from the Ankole sub region.  In Ankole the hostility was mainly the outcome of decades of conflict over land, jobs, and social services between the host communities and the refugees. In Buganda, the former Banyarwanda casual labourers who had joined the NRA more often came back to haunt their former masters.

In October 1982, Mbarara District Administration issued a memorandum to government demanding for the eviction of Banyarwanda refugees over their role in the Iddi Amin regime atrocities, failing the 1972 invasion by dissidents from Tanzania, grabbing of land from nationals, voting for UPM in the 1980 elections, and links with the then Museveni’s rebel NRA.  The government simply ignored this memorandum.

On 1st October 1982, teams of local UPC officials, Youth Wingers, Police Special Forces, with the blessing of top UPC stalwarts from Ankole like Chris Rwakasisi descended on Banyarwanda homesteads.  On October 2nd, columns of Banyarwanda with their herds of cattle were streaming to the refugee camps while others were headed for the border with Rwanda.  Roadblocks were erected on the way where refugees lost some of their properties. On the way, local people were stopped from helping the refugees with even drinking water. Those who fled to the camps continued to live in fear.

In Rwanda, the Hutu government responded humanely by providing a fleet of trucks that ferried the evictees into reception centres.  The Rwanda government working with CARITAS and OXFAM provided food and temporary shelter.  At the request of the UN Secretary General, the UNHCR coordinated emergency programs.  The UNHCR in Rwanda appealed for aid and countries overwhelmingly responded.  A US$ 400,000 fund was raised for emergency assistance for camps in Rwanda and relocation sites in Uganda.  They set up two camps to accommodate an estimated 44,000 evictees who crosses into Rwanda.

Mahango Camp initially housed 13,000 refugees with their 50,000 heads of cattle. Kanyinya camp housed 30,000 agriculturalists.  When the cattle started dying due to lack of sufficient pasture and water, the pastrolists left the camp and trekked the 70 kms journey through the Akagera National Park for ten days before settling at the southern end near Lake Nasho. During the trek, they lost one percent of their cattle to disease and lions. The cultivators at Kanyinya camp were moved to a tented camp at Kibondo.  Interestingly, some of the Hutu who were sent back to Rwanda had so much integrated into the Ugandan society that they had even forgotten the Kinyarwanda language.

With a population of 5.5M at the time, Rwanda was the most densely populated country in the world. By November 1st it had been overwhelmed by the influx and it closed its border leaving thousands of refugees stuck around the border. This was after the Hutu government in Rwanda gathered intelligence that some members of the dissident Rwandese Alliance for National Unity (RANU) were senior officers in Museveni’s rebel NRA. It suspected systematic infiltration by armed Tutsi dissidents.  A few refugees kept moving back and forth across the border at isolated points while coordinating the NRA recruitment drive.

The eviction had taken place when President Obote had been away visiting Italy for medical treatment. The Minister for Refugees Affairs, Hon. Rwanyarare was also away in Geneva attending a refugee conference.  Upon return, President Obote issued a statement calling for a “return of law, order and constitutional rights that protected citizens, aliens and refugees alike”.  He added that the matter was a local misunderstanding between refugees and indigenous inhabitants in Ankole.  A five days later, a ministerial committee meeting was convened in Gabiro Rwanda from 22 – 27 October 1982. They agreed on a plan to resolve the crisis. President Obote appointed a team for a fact-finding tour of south western Uganda.

In Uganda, 35,000 displaced Banyarwanda remained in refugee settlements having joined those who had been living there since the 1960s.  A sizeable number had succeeded in sneaking into Tanzania with thousands of their heads of cattle.  There were 4,000 people stuck around Mirama Hill border encamped within several hundred yards of the border bridge.  In March 1983, a follow-up meeting between Uganda and Rwanda was convened in Kabaale.  A joint communiqué was issued committing the two countries to resolve the tragedy.

Uganda committed itself to provide additional land to relieve the overcrowded settlement camps. Indeed, another camp was set up at Nsungyerezi becoming the 8th settlement camp.  However, around December 1983 about 19,000 Banyarwanda were forcefully evicted from Rakai district.  In July 1984 Uganda and Tanzania signed an agreement to take back 10,000 Banyarwanda Tutsi.

Note:  After Museveni took over power in 1986, former Minister Rwakasisi was charged with kidnap with intent to murder – related to Banyarwanda refugees, convicted and sentenced to death in June 1988.  As the then Minister for Security, he had spearheaded the Banyarwanda eviction. During sentencing, he made a statement to the effect that he “was grateful that he was to die rather than live under the regime of Museveni.”  He had set up a detention and torture chamber at Kamukuzi in Mbarara Municipality where victims were held before being transferred to Nile Mansions and Kireka in Kampala.  Apart from Nile Mansions, the Museveni regime is also using the same facilities for the same purpose.

In February 1883 government troops launched a major offensive in the Luwero Triangle dubbed Operation Bonanza commanded by Col. John Ogole with the technical backing of the North Korea military team.  Some 18 internally displaced people’s camps (IDP) housing about 20,000 locals mainly Baganda peasants were set up in different places in Luwero Triangle.  Relief agencies swung into action around July 1983 to provide relief assistance.  The NRA (National Resistance Army) had evacuated Banyarwanda residents to Ankole and other areas with able bodied males enlisting in the NRA ranks. You should note that the skulls on display in Luwero are of Baganda peasants and soldiers but hardly of Balaalo.

The NRA took custody and ate the Balaalo’s 21,000 heads of cattle with promises to compensate them after the war.  In Ankole, the so called Balaalo from the Luwero Triangle intermingled with their ethnic Hima. They joined their colleagues in occupying the government ranches and parts of Lake Mburo National Park.  In 1933 the area that later evolved into Lake Mburo National Park was declared a Controlled Hunting Area. In 1963 it was elevated to a Game Reserve.  In 1983, it was made a national park and the illegal occupants (Balaalo) were evicted. The UPC government fell in 1985 at a time when the Balaalo led NRA rebels were controlling the western region. The Balaalo reoccupied the park after attacking and expelling the park staff, destroying infrastructure and killing wildlife.  In 1957, the government ordered people to temporally vacate areas that had been infested by tsetse flies in Nyabushozi to allow spraying.

Towards independence, the USA and World Bank gave loans for the establishment of ranching schemes for beef and diary products.  Government and private ranches were established in Nyabushozi, Buruuli, Kiboga, Masindi, Kabula and Sembabule. Over the years, Balaalo squatters encroached on these ranches. The children of these squatters on ranches and the national park joined Museveni’s NRA rebels in Luwero and were promised free land at the of the war.  Immediately after taking over power in 1986, Museveni appointed a one Commander Kuteesa as the Commandant of the so called Luwero War Balalos in Nyabushozi.  He advised those who had land in the Luwero Triangle to go back and promised free land to those who had none.  Museveni used government money to buy cattle from Tanzania which he issued to these Balaalo.

In 1988 Museveni set up a Prof. Mugerwa inquiry into the question of ranches and encroachers but the regime ignored Prof. Mugerwa’s recommendations.  In 1999, the regime inspired violence between the now armed squatters and the private ranchers erupted.  Museveni set up the David Pulkol led Ranches Restructuring Board (RRB).  The board had Balaalo soldiers like now Gen. John Mugume Chaga and Col. Eric Kamugunda. About 100 sq. kms of Lake Mburo National Park and huge chunks of ranges of land was illegally allocated to the Balaalo squatters. Col. Kamugunda is now one of the richest landlords in Masindi and Ngoma.

Note:  According to Mzei Boniface Byanyima, since the 1960s Museveni was opposed to private ranches. Before Iddi Amin took over in 1971, Museveni had started campaigning for the position of Member of Parliament for North West Ankole on the UPC ticket. His agenda was to fight the ranching scheme and to unseat John Babiiha who had been the brain behind the wider diary development program through establishment of ranches.

During the bush war, Museveni practiced preferential treatment for the Banyarwanda fighters. Unlike the Baganda, Bahima and other tribes, the Banyarwanda fighters owed the total loyalty to Museveni. Externally, the Banyarwanda Tutsi political organisation, Rwandese Alliance for National Unit (RANU) banked on the Banyarwanda in the NRA for its future prospects of “liberating Rwanda.”

The actions of UPC functionaries against Banyarwanda refugees in Ankole had helped boost the rebel NRA ranks.  By the time the NRA took over power in 1986, the Banyarwanda Tutsi in the NRA were about 3,000 out of the force of 14,000.  Fred Rwigyema was the defacto Army Commander before he became the Deputy Minister of Defence.  Paul Kagame was the defacto head of Military Intelligence while a number of senior Banyarwanda army officers occupied key positions in security circles.

Banyarwanda in the NRA were dominant in strategic departments like intelligence, finance, supplies and logistics, and Presidential Protection.  Mindful of the resentment that Ugandans would develop towards Rwandese, Museveni put in place an Anti sectarianism law that penalised anyone who would dare point a finger at the privileged positions and preferential treatment that was being accorded to the Banyarwanda.

Museveni also changed the old colonial law that provided for proof of ancestry rather than birth or residence for citizenship of Uganda.  One had to show that at least one of his or her grandparents had been born in what became Uganda prior to the 20th Century.  He instead decreed that all one needed was to prove five years of residency in Uganda. Pressure from Ugandans more especially those in the military who saw the law as a first step towards entrenchment of Banyarwanda forced him to reverse the law.  The Banyarwanda saw the reversal as a big blow and a month later in October 1990, a sizeable number of Banyarwanda in the NRA invaded Rwanda.

As the NRA set to expand its numerical strength, the number of Banyarwanda Tutsi in the army also increased.  The refugee camps became bases for Banyarwanda refugee soldiers.  When the Banyarwanda soldiers in the NRA decided to invade Rwanda in October 1990, Museveni chose to give them all the assistance they needed so that they should never come back because Ugandans were tired of their preferential treatment.

The RPF advance into Rwanda was also backed by about tens of thousands of Banyarwanda Tutsi (both refugees and non-refugees) in Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Congo.  In Uganda, the chief financiers of the RPF were the likes of Mzei Donant Kananura who is still a top Museveni regime person.  His son, Innocent Bisangwa was a top Museveni Bush War operative who hijacked the government plane from Entebbe to Kasese in 1985.  While he was a Personal Assistant to Museveni in 1992, he was arrested in the USA as he attempted to smuggle a big consignment of arms to Uganda for the RPF.

By 1991 it is estimated that Banyarwanda in Uganda were 1.3M out of a total population of 18M in the country.  Of these, 450,000 were Uganda indigenous Banyarwanda who became Ugandans after Kisoro became part of Uganda in 1918 and 650,000 were the Banyarwanda economic immigrants who came to look for work and a few who came to look for pasture for their cattle between 1926 and 1959 of whom 84,000 were the Banyarwanda Tutsi refugees registered under UNHCR.

Many had left the refugee settlement camps and integrated into local society.  In 1993 the then Minister of Local government, Dr. Steven Chebrot estimated that about 300,000 Banyarwanda refugees were spontaneously resettled amongst the locals outside the camps. The able bodied had left the camps to the elderly and settled in urban centres while others had acquired land outside camps and settled there. The UNHCR had handed the management of the camps to the government though food aid continued coming in.  Even within the camps, the refugees had become self sustaining by producing enough to feed themselves and surplus for sale.

In July 1994 when the RPF took over power in Rwanda, a reconnaissance party of Banyarwanda civilians left for Rwanda so as to get hold on political fortunes.  By end of 1995, an estimated 226,000 Banyarwanda refugees had returned to Rwanda. They deserted the refugee camps and the countryside as far as Ngoma, Kyankwanzi, Masindi, Nakasongola and Luwero and moved en masse and headed for Rwanda.  As the Tutsi were leaving Uganda for Rwanda, the Hutu were leaving Rwanda in millions for Tanzania and Congo.  A small contingent of 11,000 Hutu entered Uganda and were camped in Kisoro and Ntungamo before being transferred to Oruchinga camp.  A departing Tutsi at Oruchinga camp attempted to spear a child of an arriving Hutu but only to injure his fellow Tutsi.

The 1993 Arusha Accord between the Tutsi RPF rebels and the Hutu government of Rwanda had stipulated that returning refugees after ten years were not to seek to reclaim previous properties but were to be resettled on unoccupied land.  Once the RPF took over power, the returning Tutsi occupied property left behind by fleeing Hutu.  However, as time went on, reconciliation efforts dictated that returning Hutu ought to reoccupy their property. The issue was so controversial to an extent that it accounted for the false accusations of genocide against some Hutu just as a way of keeping them off the property.

To strike a compromise, a villagization (Imidugudu) scheme where services would be centralized and modern agricultural technology made accessible was initiated. The international development partners supported the construction of Imidugudu (pictured).  Meeting land and housing needs of returning refugees proved quite a challenge. The situation was worse with the pastrolists Tutsi who needed huge chunks of land for their cattle.

Many returned and settled in Uganda where grazing land was plenty.  Those who had anticipated a land of milk and honey, they too were disappointed and retreated to Uganda where land, availability of social services, and economic opportunities including employment were easily forthcoming more than in their new-found home.  For the majority of others who had not left for Rwanda, they opted to stay in Uganda. Even the elites in influential positions in Rwanda have been acquiring land in Uganda through proxies.

With the sound availability of cash, the so called Balaalo have evolved from the traditional pastoralist casual labourers to owners of thousands of heads of cattle, huge chunks of land, are armed, and determined to spread to as far as West Nile and Acholi at the border with Sudan.

Museveni managed to push through the 1995 Constitution a provision that recognised Banyarwanda as one of the 56 indigenous ethnic communities.  It was not made clear if the constitutional Banyarwanda ethnic group referred to the Banyarwanda who were added into Uganda by colonial boundaries in Kisoro, the economic immigrants of the early 20th century who came to look for work, or those who came as refugees during the 1959 – 1974 exodus escaping political turmoil.

In October 2001, the Uganda government announced that it was probing the composition of 1,252 army Cadet Officers after discovering that several Rwandan undercover spies posing as Ugandans had been recruited for training.  The then Army Spokesman, Col. Keitirima confirmed that they had also turned away several Rwandans who had sought to be recruited.

In July 2002, a delegation of 30 Banyarwanda elders met Museveni for a petition over the alleges of harassment of Banyarwanda by security agencies.  They claimed that over twenty Banyarwanda were being held in safe houses by intelligence services.  This was during the time when relations between Uganda and Rwanda were sour following the bloody clash of the two armies in Congo. To the security agencies, the detained Banyarwanda were Rwandese spies.  Appearing on Andrew Mwenda Live radio talk show, Kagame had complained that; “I was told how Rwandese are being arrested in Kampala and in Kikuko wherever they are found.”

On 17th June 2007, the government owned New Vision ran a letter by one Mutesi of Kabale in which she was complaining about Banyarwanda being denied passports. That she had had to consult her friends in security services who advised her not to state that she was a Munyarwanda but should instead call herself a Mufumbira.  She went ahead to disclose that since she had worked in Kisoro as a teacher, she travelled there and using the voters card she filled forms, had them approved by the LCs and the area M.P and eventually got her passport. She disclosed that her grandfather had migrated from Rwanda to Tanzania 100 years ago, and that her father relocated to Uganda, died and was buried in Ntungamo, Uganda.

In 2007, the Local Government of Kyankwanzi district offered to take in and accommodate the 100 Banyarwanda Balaalo families that had been evicted from Buliisa following clashes with Bagungu. The move was spearheaded by the LC3 Chairman, Fred Mpora and escorted by Police.  Fred Mpora has been a key figure in the incursions by Balaalo into Acholi.

In April 2008 Banyarwanda living in Uganda under their umbrella organisation, UMUBANO held the annual assembly at Lugogo Indoor Stadium under the chairmanship of Erick Kyamuhangire who is Museveni’s Senior Presidential Advisor on Culture.  The assembly expressed grave concern over denial of passports, loss of land, denial of recruitment into public service, denial of scholarships and general discrimination by government.

Their Chairman lamented thus; “…. if one happens to have a contact in Rwanda, then it’s enough reason for disqualification.” They gave the example of Balalo who were being evicted in Masindi describing it as paid harassment before accusing the government of being biased against the Balaalo.  Note: one of the key state witnesses in the Kyadondo terror attack, Muhammad Mugisha claimed to be a Ugandan who was born in Rwanda but relocated to Uganda in 1998.

In 2009, the Uganda Citizenship and Immigration Control Act was amended to put it in line with the constitutional provision on Banyarwanda Tutsi. S.12 provides for citizenship by birth for any person born in Uganda whose parents or grandparents is or was a member of any of the indigenous communities existing in and residing within the borders of Uganda as at the first day of February 1926, as set out in the Third Schedule to the 1995 constitution.

It went ahead to stipulate that every person born in or outside Uganda one of whose parents or grandparents was at the time of birth of that person a citizen of Uganda by birth, is eligible for citizenship. S.14 (1) (a) (ii) eliminates Hutu refugees from accessing citizenship thus; “every person born in Uganda who at the time of birth neither of his or her parents and none of his grandparents was a refugee in Uganda”.

Since it’s now the Hutu who are refugees, the provision bars them. S.14 (b) grants citizenship to anyone who has continuously lived in Uganda since 9th October 1962. Interestingly, the Act under S.14 (2) (b) gives a blank cheque to Tutsi Banyarwanda who are always on the move migrating to and settling in Uganda thus ” any person who has legally and voluntarily migrated to Uganda and has been living in Uganda for at least twenty years is eligible for citizenship”. The other requirements include a good command of the English language or ‘prescribed local language’.

In July 2010, the Museveni regime in connivance with the Kagame regime in Kigali forcefully returned to Rwanda 1,700 Hutu Asylum seeker and refugees to Rwanda.  The victims have escaped Gacaca community courts, land wrangles and general repression.

Note:  The UPC government was accused of forcefully returning Tutsi refugees to Rwanda in the early 1980s but in the instant case it looked okay because the victims were Hutu. In 2010, a group of Banyarwanda refugees in Uganda petitioned the Constitutional Court over acquisition of citizenship. They claimed that the Immigration Department was refusing to give them citizenship application forms on grounds that they were not eligible on account of their being refugees. They based their petition on a constitutional provision that made refugees eligible for citizenship by naturalisation and registration. Article 12 (2) (c) and 14 (2) (c) provides that “a person who on commencement of this constitution has lived in Uganda for the last 20 years is eligible for citizenship by registration”. The petitioners had lived in Uganda since 1985. In October 2015 court ruled that refugees were eligible for citizenship not by registration but naturalisation but two of the petitioners had already been relocated to the USA by UNHCR while the 3rd could not be traces.

The 2013 Land Policy condemns those who classify “cross border population movement as refugees or internally displaced people because of shared common heritage and culture”.  With Museveni’s treacherous populist refugee policy, what can stop Rwandans faced with land shortage back in Rwanda from coming to Uganda claiming to be refugees from Burundi or Banyamulenge of Congo.

In 2012 the government set up a committee to discuss naturalisation for refugees especially Rwandese and Congolese of 1990s and 1960s lot respectively.  The Director of Refugees stated that at least 5,000 refugees had applied for naturalisation.  In January 2015, the Ministry of Internal Affairs ran a countrywide awareness campaign to enable any non-citizens that meet the conditions stipulated under S.14 of the Uganda Citizenship and immigration Control Act to become citizens. The Minister made it clear that refugees were not eligible to apply.  In both instances, nothing concrete was arrived at and the scheme was simply abandoned.

In 2012, Museveni and Kagame met members of the Banyarwanda community in Uganda (UMUBANO) at State House in Kampala. They were feuding over leadership with one faction recognising Donant Kananura while another one recognized Dr. Eric Kyamuhangire who also doubles as a Senior Presidential Advisor on Culture.  The Kananura group was accused of extorting money from Kagame under the guise of assisting Banyarwanda in Uganda.  Museveni promised to mediate in resolving the leadership wrangles. On his part, Kagame advised the Banyarwanda not to focus on those small issues of leadership but work for the development of the two countries.

In 2013 Tanzania expelled Rwandese who were illegally staying in Kagera region back to Rwanda. Thousands of them chose to come to Uganda where the Museveni regime accorded them VIP reception, free land and citizenship.  The Chairman of the Banyarwanda in Uganda who is also a Presidential Advisor on Culture, Dr. Eric Kyamuhangire wrote a long missive in The New Vision condemning Tanzania’s action.  He argued that the people expelled were Banyarwanda who had migrated there in the 1970s and 80s in search of pasture and were therefore both Ugandans and Tanzanians because that region is suitable for cattle grazing.

The expulsion also fermented serious friction between Museveni and Kagame on one hand and Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete.  Kyamuhangire’s argument confirms the belief by some people that the so-called cattle corridor is for their exclusive occupation.  How come they couldn’t trace their previous homes if they were Ugandans? In July 2015 Museveni paid a visit to a one Johnson Nyinondi in Tanzania’s Kagera region whom he described as his relative who had helped a lot in intelligence gathering and recruitment of fighters against the Iddi Amin regime.

In April 2016, the then Minister of Internal Affairs, Rose Akol visited Mirama Hill border post at the Uganda-Rwanda border.  She ordered Rwandan nationals in Uganda who were holding both Ugandan and Rwandese national IDs to surrender one.  During the same occasion the DPC Ntungamo and Immigration Officers disclosed that the irregularity was making it difficult to fight cross border crime. Immigration Officers further revealed that they were confiscating an average of ten Ugandan IDs per day from Rwandan travellers.

Given the porous borderline, it is obvious that many more Uganda ID card holders move freely to and from the two countries. During the 2016 general elections in Uganda, the opposition decried that the Museveni regime had been issuing national IDs to Rwandans in order to enable them to vote for Museveni.  The Minister’s stand did not go well with the regime agenda and she was not only relieved of her ministerial position but made to lose in the parliamentary elections.  Its no wonder that even the Uganda national ID is institutionally baptized INDANGAMUNTU – a Kinyarwanda word for Rwandan national ID.

Last week the Rwandan High Commissioner to Uganda called upon Rwandans residing in Uganda to get ready to cast their vote at the embassy during the forthcoming August general elections.  He disclosed that there are 55,000 Rwandans in the diaspora of which about 6,000 live in Uganda.

From the above long narration, it can be authoritatively argued that the so called Banyarwanda include all the Rwandans who find themselves in Uganda including the Rwandese embassy staff.  The spirit of the constitution was manipulated to cover up for a wider scheme for Tutsi domination of Uganda.  The recognition of Banyarwanda as one of the indigenous communities of Uganda was not meant for the migrant Banyarwanda who came to Uganda at the beginning of the last century. Moreover, this category had already integrated into the local Ugandan society and those from Kisoro district who were made part of Uganda by colonialists have their own identity as Bafumbira. Therefore, the Banyarwanda of Uganda are the former Tutsi refugees of 1960s and 70s and the Tutsi immigrants both of whom have found two homes in both Uganda and Rwanda. They are bent on systematically achieving dominance and have the political and financial muscle to achieve this.

Under the guise of commercial farming, Museveni’s scheme is to deprive people of their land and hoard them into urban centres so that they lose their respective community identities to the advantage of Banyarwanda.  That is the price of the false so called national unity and regional integration.

INFORMATION IS POWER AND DEFIANCE IS THE WAY TO GO.

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