EA Tribune Reporter, Kampala, Uganda.
Justus Muhanguzi Kampe, the author of “Eyes of a Journalist”, a book on the Rwandan genocide has petitioned the Uganda Human Rights Commission expressing fear for his life. Kampe says his life is under threat from Rwandan officials following the launch of his book on September 28th 2017 at Hotel Africana in Kampala.
According to Kampe, trouble started when he tried to launch his book on April 6th, 2017. He explains that as he was making final preparations for the launch on April 5th, 2017, he received a phone call from Uganda Police Spokesman, Assistant Inspector General of Police, Asan Kasingye informing that the Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura wanted to meet him.
“It was slightly past 11am when I received a ‘strange’ and unexpected phone call on my office mobile line from AIGP Asan Kasingye. Although I have known and dealt with Kasingye both in private (we hail from the same district) and in official circles, I did not expect him to call me on my office line, which is purely reserved for official business,” says Kampe. He says that before he could respond, Kasingye explained to him how the book he was about to launch had sparked off a diplomatic raw between Kampala and Kigali before sucking in the IGP Kaihura.
“These colleagues think that your book has issues and they are saying you should update and revise your book before you publish it. They are ready to compensate you and even facilitate your travel to Kigali to get more information. You may even travel this afternoon so come prepared and be very fast,” he said. According to Kampe, Kasingye didn’t give him much time and hung up immediately leaving him lost for what to do. “I asked the young man who was helping with the launch preparations to accompany me to contact the chairman of the committee,” he said.
He says that after explaining to chairman his telephone conversation with Kasingye, he asked him whether the he inquired whether those asking him to postpone the launch of his book where ready to compensate his expense. “We however agreed that I go to Naguru and talk to the IGP (Kaihura). On arrival, I went to Kasingye’s office where his aide told me to wait as he was busy preparing for a press conference,” he said.
He says that after waiting for about an hour he contacted Kasingye’s aide who later informed him that the IGP was held up in an emergency meeting. “He says you can go back but remain on standby ready to come back when the IGP arrives.”
Kampe says that he had just driven for less than 100 meters when he received a direct call from Kasingye asking him to go back immediately. He says on arrival in Kasingye’s office, he found a smartly dressed middle-aged guy whom the police boss introduced as “our colleague Ismail Baguma from the Rwanda High Commission.”
He says after exchanging pleasantries, Kasingye introduced the Rwandan official as the Police Liaison officer at the embassy and then introduced the subject matter but hastened to add that the meeting was informal as they were still waiting for the IGP. “I thought it was worthwhile for two to know each other as we wait for the IGP who is arriving anytime now,” he reportedly said.
Kampe says he immediately turned to Baguma and inquired what issues they had with his book. “Please I want you to understand that we are not opposed to the launch of this Book. We only want you to balance it and update it since you are talking about things that happened a long time ago. We are even ready to facilitate your travel to Kigali so that you gather more information and carry out more interviews to enrich your publication. I know you have already incurred some expenses and we are ready to compensate you,” he quotes Baguma as saying.
According to Kampe, he asked whether Baguma has read the book and his answer was negative, but said he had heard that there were some inaccuracies like the alleged cause of Fred Rwigema’s death. Baguma then reportedly asked to have a copy of the book but he told him he didn’t have one.
He says they continued to engage in a friendly chat, and Baguma went ahead to him for having contributed to the Rwanda Patriotic Front-RPF struggle. Baguma says Kasingye later got a phone call and excused himself only to return and tell him to leave, saying he will call him later.
Kampe however, says they were preparing to leave, Baguma told Kasingye about the need to meet Major General, Frank Mugambagye, the Rwandan Ambassador. He says that without asking about his view, Kasingye asked him to head for Rwandan embassy.
“As we walked down the stairs heading for the parking lot, I decided against the proposal and tried to walk faster to my car which was in the parking lot. I realized my friend Baguma was also determined to keep close to me although he was communicating on phone in Kinyarwanda. It was obvious that he was talking to his boss the Rwandan ambassador who seemed to be giving him orders and instructions.
As I approached my car which was parked a few meters away from his, Baguma suddenly halted the phone conversation and signaled me to jump into his car. Adding that, “As if he was reading my mind about my decision not to follow him to the embassy, Baguma insisted and asked me to tell my driver to follow us in his black Prado Registration number UAV 433V.”
He says that as they were driving, he received a phone call from a staff at Africana Hotel asking him to confirm his booking for the venue of the book launch. “I will inform you later about everything” was the answer I gave to the hotel official. But this answer triggered off a strange reaction from Baguma. It was then that I realized how I was in real danger. We were a few meters from the Embassy in Kitante but Baguma had to suddenly park the vehicle and as if he was ready for a showdown, ordered me to call back the hotel. With a strange look on his face, he ordered me “Tell them that the launch has been cancelled period.”
He says that Bagume then drove straight through the embassy gate and asked him to follow him up to the ambassador’s office. “He never talked again until we entered the office of the secretary to the ambassador where he signaled me to sit and wait as he entered the office where he spent about ten minutes. When I was finally ushered in the office, the also realized that ambassador Mugambagye was acting strange and it was evident he was pretending to be polite although he careful chose every word he uttered. He told me how he had been following my false and malicious stories about the war and cautioned me about being misguided by Rwanda’s enemies,” Kampe says.
He noted that the ambassador told him that, “I have been reading your articles and it is clear that you have accepted to be used by our enemies we have and continue fighting. I caution you that you are treading a dangerous ground.”
He says Mugambagye spent about 30 minutes lecturing him on how Kigali had for many years restrained themselves from taking action and added how he was stretching their limit.
“At one point, he could not hide his burning anger and this could be seen from his body language. But it was until he reminded me about what has and continue happening to the Rwandan fugitives that it dawned on me how I had become a caged bird and helpless. Without mincing words, Mugambagye told me to abandon the idea of the launch and said the international community was only interested in healing the wounds caused by genocide,” Kampe says.
He says it was at this point that he realized that he was under captivity and was not sure whether he would get out of the embassy premises in one piece and I apologized for his wrong doings. Kampe says that when he asked Mugambagye whether Kigali would consider compensating for his expenses as suggested by Baguma, he slipped into another bout of rage and banged the desk to make his point clear. “That is absolute nonsense.”
Kampe who declines to reveal how he got out of captivity, says he had to concede to some condition including not leaking the story to the media or releasing a single copy of his book. He says that since then his worries about his personal security have since multiplied and now he keeps watching over his back suspecting that he is being followed.
“Going by the reactions through the various press statements and interviews issued by H.E the ambassador of Rwanda Maj. Gen Frank Mugambagye (who played a big role in my capture and psychological torture which started at the police headquarters in Naguru and ended in his offices at the Rwandan High Commission in Kitante) I am requesting that this be considered as a legitimate complaint which should be investigated up to a logical conclusion,” he writes to Uganda Human Rights Commission chairperson.
He says his recent attempts to get assistance in his quest for justice has left him confused as one senior police officer he requested in a written phone text message simply wrote back “….as a journalist and human rights defender, I guess you will bring it to the appropriate authorities.”
He explains that when he wrote back to the police officer informing him that colleagues from the media fraternity, sympathizers and even workmates at UHRC had advised him to report his ordeal to police and make a statement, the same police officer responded thus “Well, you may need to get guidance from MOFA, since the High Commission falls under them with some immunity. I may not be the best person to advice ndugu.”
The Rwanda High Commission has since denied intimidating Kampe with intentions of stop him to launch his book. In his statement issued on Monday, the Rwandan Ambassador Maj. Gen Frank Mugambagye, says they only invited Kampe to show him distortions and falsehoods in his book.
“The allegation that while at the High Commission, Justus Muhanguzi was threatened is baseless and unfounded. It is true Justus Muhanguzi met the High Commissioner several times and other diplomats… Justus Muhanguzi accepted and apologized for wrong information in his book and revealed that some people with certain interests had engaged him in the project,” the statement says.
The High Commission also indicated that Kampe requested for a refund of the money he had spent on the book, a request they rejected. “The High Commission rejected this attempt as blackmail,” reads the statement. “It is surprising to hear him say he was held hostage yet he was a regular visitor at the High Commission, a fact that can be proved by CCTV at the High Commission and numerous calls he made seeking appointment,” the statement adds.