Reports that 300 Ugandans have been arrestedand are literally rotting away in DR Congo cells must trouble Ugandans. Of course, this number is likely higher than stated to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee by Uganda’s envoy to DR Congo, Mr James Kinobe.
Among the detainees are FDC party activist Sam Mugumya, arrested in 2014. Worse, some of these detainees have wasted in DR Congo jails for at least two years without trial.
However, missing were any concrete steps government plans in order to rescue these Ugandans. Indeed, Mr Kinobe, by his own admission, can hardly do much but government should still go the extra mile for our citizens. Of course, Uganda has no extradition treaty with DRC.
Irrespective of their alleged crimes, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should find it in Uganda’s interest to follow through these cases and rescue these Ugandans. It is good that Mr Kinobe visited Mugumya in a military detention in Kinshasa. Even if Mugumya’s case is complicated as Kinobe says, he remains a Ugandan. As such, government should not look on as Mr Mugumya and other citizens languish in jail.
As we argued before, it is immaterial whether Mr Mugumya and company were arrested over illegal entry, smuggling, etc., by the authorities in DR Congo. Whatever their cases, these are Ugandan citizen who should be protected, and or subjected to the due process of the courts. Government should work quickly to ensure they are accorded the due legal representation and their repatriation negotiated.
We have consistently urged the government to care more for every Ugandan in distress abroad, be it in DR Congo, or China. Let government save the families and country the headaches of worry about these citizens in distress. As with other cases before, government should engage a higher diplomatic gear and enter into bilateral negotiations with DRC to secure justice and release of these citizens.
Ambassador James Kinobe cannot say Uganda cannot do anything because these people were arrested during operations against the ADF rebels. Going by Kinobe’s own statement, most of these Ugandans are young and must have been misled, or lured into the ADF ranks without conscientious decision. Government should find it disturbing that some of these young people cannot even remember their parents.
In sum, the plight of more than 300 Ugandans in DRC over several offences should be sorted out.
In this regard, government should move quickly to help our jailed citizens as suggested by Serere Woman MP Alice Alaso and Lwemiyaga County MP Theodore Ssekikubo. Uganda should negotiate their speedy representation, and trial by recognised and competent law courts in DR Congo.