Legal Disclaimer: All individuals named in this document are innocent of all crimes until proven guilty. Although every effort has been made for accuracy, all of the actions recounted by Mr. Kalinga are allegations that have not yet been substantiated in a court of law.
Note: [square brackets indicate editors’ comments].
On the morning of June 7th 2005, I had a vehicle borrowed from a friend of mine (Mr. Furah Pascal) and I was helping a friend (Rtd.) Capt. Frank Tumwine) pick up his mother from Mbarara, Uganda to take her to Rwanda for medical treatment. We organised our travel documents and headed off to Mbarara via Kagitumba border point where we had every thing cleared and our documents were endorsed formally. While in Itojo (a few kilometres away from the border point) a car tried to stop us, but I just ignored them (since it was not police it was just a small car) and I just drove towards Mbarara, where I was going intending to pick up this patient from Lubaya Sub-county. While in Mbarara we stopped off at a hotel just behind the Mbarara roundabout to refresh ourselves before we could continue to Rubaya. While we were in the hotel a boy came and asked for the owner of the vehicle parked outside at the petrol station with Rwandan number plates and I informed him that I was the one. He told me that I had parked wrongly and so I went to move the car, leaving Frank Tumwine in the hotel. Getting into the car I started the engine and suddenly I was grabbed by four men who told me they were Ugandan Security operatives. They handcuffed me and put me into their car a small Toyota corona and drove me at a crashing speed (one operative also drove the pick-up I had borrowed from Mr. Furanah Pascal). They exchanged vehicles three times before getting to Kampala and the Chieftancy for Military Intelligence (CMI). I was blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back.
I spent a week without talking to anyone and without knowing why I had been kidnapped. After some time I was taken to the Office of Counter Intelligence where I met a captain who interrogated me and asked me many strange questions including:
- Who had Kagame [the President of Rwanda] sent me to kill?
- Who were my allies in Kampala [the capital of Uganda] and in the government and other security organisations?
- What exactly had I come to spy in Uganda and where?
- Who among the UPDF (Ugandan army) had I come to collect and take into exile?
All of these things were new to me. The captain emphasised that I was a RDF [Rwandan army] soldier and that he had lots of supposed information about me including that I was a lieutenant by rank working for Special Presidential Intelligence.
After I denied knowledge of what they were talking about they handed me over to another group that took me to a place at night, blindfolded, and asked me the same questions. At this place I recognised one of my kidnappers as Lt. Musyabe of CMI/JATT (Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force). I was severely beaten with batons and tortured with electricity. I was taken to more than seven places for questioning and torture (beatings). I can not tell exactly what these places were because I was always blindfolded. After about two months I was taken to a place where I was told that I must either tell the truth or I would be gone.
First Terrible Torture
They removed my trousers and tied a string around my testicles with the other end on a vehicle, which I was supposed to pull. They forced me to pull it and as a result my testicles were pulled about a meter behind. They then tied the same string to a tree and told me to pull it down and once again my testicles were pulled about a meter behind me. They removed me and threw me into a room and locked the door. I spent about another month with my testicles swollen but they [the guards] would come at various intervals and strike them with wires, beating the swollen part, which took a month to contract back to the normal size. As a result I have lost my manhood [become impotent] and I am urinating blood to date.
After that I was taken to another place and I met another man called Captain Abdul Rugumayo, (who was the aide de camp of the CMI Boss Col. Nobel Mayombo) who asked if I had confessed and that I could now tell the exact truth to the questions that they had asked me. I still had no answer to what he wanted and he told them to “do the other thing.” Now I was taken to another place where I was interviewed again by a man who I came also to know as Captain Kamusilme, and he instructed a man, who I heard him call Kamugisha, to take me and iron the lies out of me.
"I thought my whole body was burned up."
Second Terrible Torture
I was taken to a house where I was tied with ropes and had my head tied down against a big water pipe. While I was tied down the operatives brought ghee (about three kilograms worth) and smeared the whole of it on my back. My back was covered with ghee and I wondered what they were going to do. Then he told me (Kamugisha) that I tell him who had I come to kill in Uganda and the other questions as well and he told he was going to iron me if I did not tell him the truth. They then put a nylon shirt on me [over the ghee]. I was wondering what next when a man came and plugged in an electric iron and set it at its maximum. He put it on my back and I felt like I was gone. He ironed me cloth-like for thirty minutes. I thought that my whole body was burned up but because of the ghee the skin cannot burn. The ghee also prevents any burn marks on the skin, although your interior is still burned. As a result I lost my senses of smell and taste. I also began to bleed strongly through the anus. To date, I still feel the burns inside of me and when I take anything cold I feel very deep pains within me. I always find myself bleeding from the anus and I can feel that I am bleeding. The trousers that I wear are always bloody when I take them off. I am also sometimes paralysed (in my torso) since the burning torture.
After some time I was informed that Major Charles Tusiime Rutarango of Kireka wanted to have my case since he is informed about Rwandan spies in Kampala. I was transferred to Kireka one day.
While in Kireka
I was put in a room called “Sauna” two hundred metres from the offices of the major and when I was called to speak to him after five days he asked exactly the same questions, promising to assist me if I was straightforward. He also told me that since I was impotent and bleeding there was no hope for survival but should I say the truth he would at least stop the torture and help me. Should I not tell “the truth” he threatened to start the torture again. I still did not know what he wanted to hear from me and he ordered his operatives (I still remember their names because the door was open when he spoke to them) Patrick Okabu, Kawere, and Mikson, to make sure that I tell them the truth. They took me to a small bathroom and started beating me with batons and beating my ears with wooden bars until the broke my left ear-drum. I bled from my ear then and I am still now half-deaf.
While in the Sauna , I told them I wanted to have a cup of water before I die, and a man I came to know Capt. Amir Mugwanya , the operations officer of VCCU, came in the evening around 10 :30 and drove me in a grey Corona. He took me to a building and into a room and when they opened the door to the room, there were two dead bodies there (a woman and a young man). They looked to have been tortured to death, and he told me that I was going to join them if I did not confess and tell the truth. I still had no answer while looking at bodies, which were even still bleeding from the head and other parts. I almost fell down dead too.
In Kireka at VCCU I saw the pickup I was driving when I was kidnapped but it now had different number plates on it, and the above part was removed, and all the stickers had been taken off. It was being used as a service van for the agency, to bring in suspects; it was being driven by a man called Sebaggala, an operative of Major Charles. I talked to a policeman [name struck for the safety of the person in question] and asked him to help. He agreed but feared to use his phone since they were being tracked. I asked him to email Mr. Pascal Furaneh (the car owner) and tell him where the car is and where I am and the situation that I am in so that he could take action. Unfortunately, Furah had not been informed that I was travelling to Mbarara on the morning in question, as it was not in my plans – I was only helping a friend to save his mother. Mr. Furah was contacted and I insisted that I could talk with him but the policeman refused. I also told him to email a friend of mine named Konrad so that he could intervene in rescuing me and use human rights activists to make sure I and the vehicle were out. Later the vehicle was taken and during that time Major Charles called me and instructed me to accept that I was a soldier and that he will release me should I say such. After the vehicle was removed I was taken to Makindye military camp at 3:00 in the morning.
In Makindye Military Barracks
It was around September 2005 when I was put in go-down cell number six of the barracks. I later learned that their [my captors] was to see if there was any suspect there that I knew since there were people like Sgt. John Bakirirahi, Warrant Officer Sam Tugume, L/Corporal Peter Egom, Lieutenant Porokoro Behuza, Lieutenant Motil (aka Kyenkaga) who were being charged with spying for Rwanda. They thought that I had worked with them in gathering information that Rwanda wanted. There in the go-down I was met by the Red Cross, who came looking for me since I was bleeding, my testicles were rotting from the inside, my ears were throbbing, and I had no medications at all. The Red Cross (ICRC) registered me there but were later restricted from seeing me or talking to me by the commander of Makindye Military Barracks, Lt. Col. Dick Bugingo. They moved me from cell to cell in the go-downs to see if I knew the soldiers accused of spying for Rwanda.
After a time they shifted me to the special cells at the quarter guard and I spent a month there. They brought another suspect there, who had been allegedly arrested with secret army documents (dealing with the strength of the Ugandan Army), named Ronald Kasekende. He was a student of town planning at Makerere University and he had been badly tortured. Again they were testing to see if I knew him, but it was the first time that I had met this man. We stayed together in cell number 8 but after a time they took me back to the go-down cells. I was called to the office of the commander of the barracks Lt. Col Dick Bugingo, who harassed me by asking me the same questions that I had been asked many times before. I still had no answers and I stood my ground stating that I did not know any of the imprisoned soldiers. He told me that I was lying that he knew that I knew at least Sgt. Bakirirahi but it was all in vain because I had no idea what he was talking about. He ordered that I be hanged and I thought that it was my time to die since hanging is killing and I was taken to the incommunicado cells.
In the Incommunicado Cells
To get to the cells we went through seven doors from the main entrance and there was a cell within the cells that was so small. He (Bugingo) ordered that when I was ready to talk they would take me to him. First it started with beatings and then at night I was tied up with handcuffs (one on each) and left hanging until the morning, with my toes not really touching the ground. This was done By Lt. Shafic , and beatings were always done by Cpl. Atukwase Wilbort, and other horrible tortures also by W.O Avutia Nasuru and Pte : Adiga of Makindye Military barracks. In the morning my chest was swollen and in the day they put me back in the cell and poured water on me. I was left with only shorts and sometimes only underwear. I was given three meals a week (Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday) for nine months. All these measures were on the orders of Lt Col Dick Bugingo.
The ICRC protection delegate visited me there and she offered to officially contact my embassy since I was dying and everyone was sympathising with me, including the deputy commander Maj. Kasigazi. Also someone [name struck for the safety of the person in question] came in the cell, bringing me food and asking if they could help. I asked them to inform the Rwandese embassy in Kampala about my situation and they promised to help saying that many Rwandese had perished in custody. They also told me that the “ironing” torture was new in JATT and that anyone who they did it on died in two or three years. They told me that they would help me but they were afraid that I would not live for another five years because of the ironing torture. They contacted the Rwandese embassy but they needed my identity card so I gave them the number of a friend in Kigali who could send my national identity card. They rang Kigali and it was sent by bus. They brought it to me and I gave them the go ahead to take it to the embassy. They did it and brought me the good news that they spoke to them personally and the embassy promised to intervene.
After at time I learned through the Red Cross that there was a deportation order issued a while back. Through the person helping me I wrote a letter to the Director of CID (Criminal Investigation Directorate) in the Ugandan Police Force asking them to respect and implement the standing deportation order. I gave a copy to the embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Internal Affairs and they all acknowledged receipt they were received on 15th Jan 2007. The person brought me a copy with the receiving stamps on it and I gave it to the Red Cross on their next visit to take it to the deputy commander for their information. When it arrived I was called and the Red Cross was asked how I managed to write it and type it from the cells. I took the blame and later they thought that it was the Red Cross doing it. After a time I sent another letter to the Ugandan Human Rights Commission and asked them to take action against the Ugandan government for kidnapping me, torturing me, and holding me since my entry into the country on June 7th 2005. I sent numerous letters to the embassy and the person also helped to inform a friend of mine working for USAID in Washington and another friend in London who involved Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
The embassy also now attempted to enter the barracks to visit me but they were blocked by the commander. I was later called into his office and he instructed me to deny that I was Rwandan and that he could find someone to claim me as their brother in a strategy to Ugandise me, with the goal of blocking my government’s intervention. I wrote a letter to him asking him to stop the fabrications about my identity and to allow me to go home to Rwanda. I copied the letter to the ministries of foreign affairs and internal affairs and the Ugandan Human Rights Commission. After I received acknowledgement of its receipt I went on a deadly hunger strike.
For eight days I ate and drank nothing willing to offer my life in purchase of justice. I found a small soap and wrote on my cell door: “take me home to Rwanda…allow me access to my embassy…allow me access to the toilet...treat me humanely…and why are you killing me simply because I am Rwandese?”
"For eight days I ate and drank nothing, willing to offer my life in purchase of justice".
On the eighth day I fainted and regained consciousness with one hand attached to an IV drip and the other handcuffed to the bed. Now the embassy was intervening, the human rights agencies were talking about me on FM radio and in the newspapers, Amnesty had interviewed the army commander, and the police commander had been interviewed.I had no intention to eat and drink again and they feared killing me there and causing a commotion so they secretly moved me (in a car with tinted windows) to the Central Police Station (CPS) in Kampala.
At the Central Police Station in Kampala
I was put in the CPS in late march 2007 and I managed to write the embassy and inform them of the transfer and the cause, giving a copy to the Ugandan Human Rights Commission. It was here that I met Dido Manyiroha, a Congolese freedom fighter who was arrested by the CMI boss and accused of collaborating with Rwanda since a friend to an enemy is also regarded as an enemy. They put in a cell with his young brother David. He looked after me since he had heard of me when they were carrying me inside and he brought me medicine like anti-bleeding tablets, painkillers, and things to treat the internal bleeding. After a month I was now walking and eating.
On the 12th of April 2007 there was a public demonstration, organised by environmentalists and parliamentarians, protesting the president’s plan to give the Ugandan rainforest to an investor to cut it down and plant sugarcane in order to increase the sugar production in the country. The demonstration turned violent and claimed five lives. As a result the police arrested the organisers and took them to the CPS, including the following members of parliament: Hon. Hussein Kyanjo, Hon. Beatrice Akim Anywar, Hon. Ondonga Otto, and Hon. Elias Rukwago.
The Parliamentarians’ Intervention
As per the regulations in the cells, they introduced themselves and we introduced ourselves and gave our stories. When the heard of Dido Manyiroha, who had spent seven months there, they were all amazed. They were also informed of me, a Rwandese who had been blamed for his nationality and was bleeding and rotting here denied access to medications and to his embassy, tortured and left to die. They called me and spoke to me and they were all concerned and touched and promised to take immediate actions for my rescue.
They were released on bail the following morning and they went straight to parliament and each made a report about me. Particularly because I had been in jail for so long, and I had been tortured so badly, parliament moved a bill about me. At this point all of the radio stations in Kampala and all of the papers (such as the Monitor, The Observer, and the New Vision) were talking all the time about Acleó Kalinga. The embassy sent a person to visit me but once again they were blocked. This person came as a visitor and gave some money to the guard and I was allowed to speak to a diplomat on the phone. We had a short conversation before I was stopped. The diplomat thought (incorrectly) that I was a soldier. I had to correct him that I was not a soldier, but a civilian and he acknowledged receipt of all communications from and about me.
The members of parliament met the ambassador and the chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission was also informed. They told me that the Ugandan parliament had become interested in my case and wants to see me taken to court if the state has real charges against me. In the meanwhile, Dido was released on a police bond indicating that he was on terrorism charges (a case that is not bondable by the police) and as he was on the steps moving outside CPS he was re-arrested and whisked away…
After a time, journalists, sent by the members of parliament, came to interview me, but they were denied access. The parliamentarians were interested not only in justice being done, but in justice being seen to be done. After a time the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and another one on Regional Cooperation sat and called the police chief and ordered him to present me to court if they have a case, and if they don’t they must release me immediately. I was called on May 3rd 2007, in the morning, and taken to room 73 where a bond was implemented and the state was the surety.
Drama as CMI Wanted to Re-Arrest me at CPS
Their aim was not to release me, since they knew that I would to talk of their systems of tortures and it could damage them, but to pull a trick by releasing me on police bond kidnapping me again before I was truly free. But the parliamentarians learned of it and they came to get me themselves.
While a bond was being implemented, three CMI agents, who I had seen in the earlier days of my arrest, arrived in the CPS building. A JATT man was even more impatient and he burst into room 73 and claimed to be my very good friend and brother but I had no knowledge of the man. Since Hon. Hussein Kyanjo and others had learned of the plan to re-arrest me they kept on phoning the CID detectives to see if I had been released yet. After the bond was issued it took seven hours to get the bond ready with struggles between the CMI and the police (influenced by the parliamentarians). They handed me my bond and they took me to more than seven rooms, playing a cat and mouse game with the CMI who wanted to take me the same way they took Dido. We hurried down three floors and they hid me in a bathroom. The CMI people were upstairs. Then they rushed me through the back of the CPS building, past the parking lot, through the back gate, and when we were about 100 metres away the deputies (who had been called) put me in their cars and drove off with me. A truck tried to chase us but eventually they sped off.
The parliamentarians drove me to head offices of JEEMA (Justice Forum) and via parliament to Munyonyo at Hon. Kyanjo’s home and I spent a night there. In the morning we drove to the Rwandese Embassy in a convoy of members of parliament and journalists. In the embassy I was interviewed by the Observer. They handed me over to the diplomats and gave me a farewell. They also requested that my government file a case against the Ugandan government for kidnapping me, torturing me, and holding me captive since June 7th 2005, without producing me in a court of law.
"In my wisdom I used to think that I was a human being.If it is true that I am still a human being, justice should be done."
I was unlawfully abducted and held without any merit whatsoever for almost two years. During this time I was placed in numerous detention houses and secret prisons where I suffered, not only the severe and arbitrary deprivation of my liberty and fundamental human rights, but was also repeatedly and systematically tortured. These gross human rights violations were executed by agents of the Ugandan State. The length of my detention, the nature of the allegations against me, and the number of individuals directly involved all indicate to me that this crime was perpetrated with the full knowledge and acquiescence of the Ugandan government. This perpetration included, not only direct perpetration, but also ordering, complicity, aiding and abetting, and other forms of involvement.
My torture was severe and included such acts as beatings, having extreme heat applied, electrocution, ligature of the testicles, being hung by the wrists, and other horrific abuses. It also included psychological torture such as being threatened with death, humiliation, sensory deprivation, and long periods of isolation. I am living with the consequences of this torture today including injuries such as, but not limited to, internal bleeding, partial deafness, impotence, partial loss of vision, lack of olfactory sensation, lack of taste, partial paralysis, widespread pain, joint immobility, and psychological trauma.
In addition to the harms inflicted upon my body, this enforced disappearance and torture caused continued sufferings for my family. My wife, unsure of my whereabouts, divorced me and I was consequently separated from my children and family. My detention and torture also damaged my good name and reputation as a car I had borrowed at the time of the abduction was reported stolen. Moreover, the Ugandan government has, since my release, alleged without factual basis that I am an assassin and/or that I am mentally imbalanced. Also I was in the process of establishing a non-profit health centre in Gasozi sector (it had already received some funds from government and non-government sources), which would have benefited many people. Thus, my employment was disrupted. Due to my current, and possibly long-term, disabilities I am weak and unable to work. Finally, I have lost my home and all my property.
My detention occurred in a violent and irregular manner. Moreover, I was held for almost two years without ever being given access to judicial due process or legal representation. I was also never charged with a crime. Although I was a Rwandan citizen in Uganda, I was also repeatedly denied access diplomatic intercession. I was not afforded the protection of law stipulated in the Ugandan constitution. These actions were also in violation of fundamental standards of international human rights and international law.
It should be noted that the actions of the Ugandan government and its agents meet the legal requirements for the international crime of torture, a crime that is part of customary international law and subject to universal jurisdiction. Moreover, these incidents may be considered to constitute the crimes against humanity of enforced disappearance and torture as they were conducted in a widespread and systematic manner with many other victims.
I require justice because the Ugandan government has denied my humanity and I am suffering today as a result.