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Rwanda, Uganda Trade Claims over Refugees Treatment

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More than a month after he was allegedly tortured by members of Uganda's secret service, Rwandan citizen Fidel Gatsinzi is still limping from his injuries.

Rwanda Uganda

Gatsinzi claims he was arrested by security agents after visiting his son at a Ugandan university in December and that 12 days of being hooded and beaten left him in a wheelchair for days after his release.

"They were accusing me of being a Rwandan spy and a killer. That I was in Uganda to hunt down Rwandan refugees living in Uganda to harm them," Gatsinzi told The Associated Press, denying the accusations. He said he saw another Rwandan who had been tortured and was "really in a bad shape."

Meanwhile, the neighboring East African countries have faced years of uneasy relations over Uganda's refusal to forcibly repatriate Rwandan refugees, including some who are suspected of involvement in Rwanda's genocide in 1994. People like Gatsinzi claim they are caught in the middle, suspected by one country or the other. Now some are taking their claims to court.

For Rwanda's government, the continuing existence of refugees challenges its narrative of peace and stability after years of recovery from the genocide. But many of those refugees worry they would be jailed on trumped-up charges if they returned home.

As Uganda pursues Rwandans it suspects of hunting down refugees, some are subjected to torture in the process, said Gawaya Tegulle, a Ugandan lawyer who has visited Rwandan nationals in detention.

"I visited Gatsinzi and the kind of torture he was subjected to is inhumane. He could not speak," Tegulle said. He plans to file a case with the High Court against Uganda's government claiming illegal detention and torture.

After such claims were made public in recent weeks, Rwandan President Paul Kagame chaired a meeting last month between the two countries to discuss the issue. The Jan. 5 meeting in Rwanda's capital, Kigali, addressed, among other things, "arrests and disappearances of Rwandan citizens in Uganda," Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said on Twitter.

Uganda's state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, has said tensions will not escalate. "Rwanda is a historical strategic ally of Uganda and both countries work for peace," he told the AP.

Uganda army spokesman Brig. Richard Karemire declined to comment on the allegations of detention and torture of Rwandan citizens.

Rwanda's president has long been accused by critics and human rights groups of plotting the assassination or disappearance of former allies and dissidents, including in other countries. He has denied it.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team