The refugees were demonstrating over insecurity, rampant kidnaps and repatriation back to Rwanda among others
Journalists covering a Tuesday morning demonstration by urban refugees met the wrath of Police who allegedly assaulted them, arrested them and grabbed their cameras and phones.
Some of the journalists included New Vision’s Betty Amamukirori, BBS’s Chris Ssemakula, UBC’s Maureen Yiga, Top TV’s Godfrey Kiyinji and a one Aidah and others from local media houses.
The officers who were tipped off by their counterparts attached to the United High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), descended on the journalists and allegedly assaulted them before making away with their phones.
With the help of a female officer at UNHCR, they picked whoever was accused of recording or photographing the demonstrators and demanded that they deleted the footage, recordings and pictures. The female journalists’ bags were torn to pieces in a scuffle.
Even those that had earlier followed the due process of identifying themselves before UNHCR were not spared.
The refugees were demonstrating over insecurity, rampant kidnaps and repatriation back to Rwanda, killing, lack of medical care, hunger, sexual abuse and corruption.
“We are helpless, defenceless, we are being killed and kidnapped and no one is doing anything about it. We have been here trying to talk to these people but they won’t allow us in. The police have strict orders not to let us see anyone and no one is coming out here to speak to us either,” said Hillary Musirikare, a Rwandan refugee.
He accused the Police of conniving with spies from Rwanda to kidnap, forcefully repatriate and kill Rwandan refugees who escaped from political persecution in their country.
The refugees who have been camping at the UNHCR offices for the past two months, decided to lay a barricade on the road leading to the offices, accusing the officers there of rejecting to give them audience.
However, the Police pounced on them even before they could get audience. Those who resisted were taken away and handcuffed.
The refugees claimed that though the law requires that a refugee is resettled to a third country after spending 10 years in the country, the UNHCR officers only resettle those who have money.
“If you cannot give money to UNHCR, they chase you away and close your file,” Musirikare said.
Amiable Musaada, a Congolese refugee accused officials of the Office of the Prime Minister and the government of grabbing the portion of land that was allocated to him at Rwamwanjja refugee settlement camp in Kamwenge, and failure to accord medical attention to his deceased six-year-old daughter.
“On June 6, 2018, I took my sick daughter to Rwamwanjja Health Centre III, they rejected her. On June 11, I took her back again, they rejected her. At 8pm she died while I was still begging for help at the hospital. I asked for an ambulance but they refused. I had to carry her body on my back,” he said.
Their lawyer, Gideon Tugume noted that UNHCR has been completely out of touch with the refugees yet it is the one supposed to help them.
“They cannot listen to them, a person cannot enter the office, their representative cannot be listened to, you can’t talk to anybody here,” he said.
He said all his efforts to have the issues of refugees addressed to the relevant officers at UNHCR have been futile and when he tried the Office of the Prime Minister, he was told that the issue will be handled but nothing has been done yet.
However, Maxwell Kamanyire the UNHCR publicist said the refugees are supposed to address the issues with InterAid and not UNHCR.