Their interdiction came to the fore after security agencies found that foreign operatives used Ugandan passports in repatriations of refugees.
PIC: Anthony Namara
KAMPALA - The interdiction of senior immigration ofﬁcials is linked to the discovery that foreign operatives who forcibly repatriated Rwandan asylum seekers possessed Ugandan passports, security sources have revealed.
Without divulging details, authorities at the internal affairs ministry on Thursday said two of its senior managers had been interdicted, following an order from President Yoweri Museveni. The interdicted ofﬁcers are the director for citizenship and immigration control, Godfrey Sasaga and the commissioner for immigration, Anthony Namara.
The details of what prompted their interdiction came to the fore after several security agencies that were tasked to probe how the suspected masterminds of the repatriations could have accessed the country found, that the foreign operatives used Ugandan passports.
How the Rwandan operatives acquired Uganda passports to ease their operations in the country caused a stir in the Internal Affairs Ministry and prompted the President to act accordingly, revealed the source. Sources revealed that while in Uganda, many of the Rwandan operatives would disguise as bodaboda riders and special hire taxi drivers.
Museveni’s order to interdict the two ofﬁcials was issued to the ministry’s permanent secretary on Wednesday. The President’s senior press secretary, Don Wanyama, conﬁrmed that Museveni had ordered the interdiction of both Sasaga and Namara, but declined to discuss the reasons.
“The President ordered their interdiction. I do not have the letter, but contact the permanent secretary for internal affairs. He has the order from the President,” Wanyama said. The internal affairs state minister, Obiga Kania, also conﬁ rmed the interdiction, but said he had not received the President’s interdiction order. “I have heard about it (interdiction). But I am out of the country and on leave,” he said.
Following the repatriation of dozens of refugees picked from various protection centres and refugee camps to Rwanda, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also complained to the Government. The repatriation soiled Uganda’s image of having the best refugee policy across the globe.
The refugee scam also reportedly strained Uganda’s relationship with donors, especially from the European Union. As a result, the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) arrested nine policemen, including the former commandant of the Police’s Professional Standards Unit, Joel Aguma and the former commandant of the disbanded Special Operations Unit, Nickson Agasirwe.
The policemen, together with a Rwandan army ofﬁcer and a Congolese, were charged before the army General Court Martial in Makindye, Kampala, with kidnapping Rwandan refugees and repatriating them to Rwanda without their consent. They are still on remand in Luzira Prisonand Makindye military barracks.
Past passport issues
The Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control a few years ago came under pressure over the failure to stem the abuse of diplomatic passports. The ministry in 2014 conﬁ rmed reports that diplomatic passports were in the wrong hands.
The then internal affairs minister, Hilary Onek, promised that all diplomatic passports in wrong hands would be recalled, but there were no announcements of any passports withdrawn.
Some ofﬁcials in the directorate were implicated in passport forgeries, including being involved in the disappearance of passport dummies that landed in the hands of fraudsters. Earlier, New Vision reported that Ugandan travel documents were being forged by non-citizens in South Africa and ofﬁ cials at the Uganda High Commission in Pretoria were cited as accomplices in the scam.
An investigation showed that several Burundian, Rwandan, Tanzanian and Congolese asylum seekers were travelling to South Africa on forged Ugandan travel documents and later returning to their home countries as Ugandans.
In 2016, the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control announced that it had bust up a gang of criminals who had been forging Ugandan passports for foreigners at a fee. The suspects, who included Ugandans and Congolese, were found with several passport dummies, immigration facility stamps, visitors’ passes and passport forms.
The internal affairs ministry then said the criminals had stolen genuine passports, but removed the biodata leaf and then forged travel documents. The ministry explained that the criminals had got hold of Uganda Revenue Authority receipts, bank documents and were seemingly running a parallel passport issuance system.