When any of Dina Kamikazi’s brothers and sisters plan to travel out of Rwanda, they will usually not inform their mother. The elderly woman maintains she doesn’t want any of her children to go missing without trace like it happened to Kamikazi, who is 42.
The mother developed health complications as a result of what happened to her daughter, which have lingered on to date.
Kamikazi, like Muhongerwa Jessica – another of the deportees, was also kidnapped around same time – December 14, 2017. For the following two weeks, though arrested separately, they found themselves in same facility at a CMI facility in Kampala. There were other women, including Somalis, in the large empty hall. They were kept hooded throughout, except for a few days leading up to their freedom on December 28 that same year.
The two women were also in same place with another Rwandan woman Agasaro vanessa. The three, together with 2 men, Fred Turatsinze and Munyangaju Munyaneza Hubert – were deported on same day, in same van.
On arrival in Rwanda, the woman, all went through same reception process; welcomed well, taken to guest house, hospital and allowed to rejoin their families after 4 days.
However, for Kamikazi, she underwent surgical operation to deal with complications she had developed. Kamikazi also had to continue receiving eye droplets because her sight had been affected due to staying hooded for long and other torture. While everyone else was hooded too, her situation was aggravated because she already had been wearing eye-glasses.
Kamikazi went to live with her mother in Kigali as first point of arrival. After some days, she and others were called back to Kigali where they were given package of Rwf 2m as help directly from “My president”, according to her own narration.
“I was so happy because I lost everything back in Uganda,” she said.
Ugandan businesses worth over $20,000
Kamikazi used the money to rent a house to stay in Rwamagana district – 1-hour drive east of Kigali, and bought a few belongings to start life afresh. She also got some other help from family to start another bar in Rwamagana. The COVID-19 pandemic found her there.
Kamikazi brought her three children and a niece to live with her there, up until March 2021 when she relocated the family to Kayonza district – about 20km from Rwamagana on same highway.
The choice of Kayonza was not accidental; Kamikazi says even before she moved permanently to Uganda, she had thought about opening businesses in Kayonza, as it a connecting center for highways link up to Uganda and Tanzania. It is a fast-developing town.
In Kayonza, Kamikazi joined up with her younger sister to open a bar. It is where The Chronicles found her for the conversation.
Back in Uganda, Mbarara town to be precise, Kamikazi operated a bar and beauty salon. According to her, the businesses were worth at least Rwf 20m ($20,000).
“Can you imagine having a good life with everything plus a bank account that had good savings, and then suddenly you have nothing. It is something I have failed to come to terms with,” she said, as she held back tears.
“I’m struggling as you can see. Besides, due to COVID-19, bar business has yet to pick up. The little money we make is for rent. Basically, we work for the landlord,” said Kamikazi. “However, the situation is far better than if I had stayed in Uganda. At least I know I’m safe in my country. I will slowly rebuild.”
How did Kamikazi end up in Uganda? She arrived there in 2015 from Tanzania where she was married to the father of her two daughters and a son. The eldest daughter just completed S6. The decision to move from Tanzania to Mbarara town was purely economic as some of her close friends had successfully installed there.
“When I look back, it causes me anguish remembering the day I the took decision to leave Tanzania. I will never ever go back to Uganda again…,” said Kamikazi. “Because of the pain she went through, our mother said none of her children should ever leave Rwanda. We hide it from her when any of us travels outside Rwanda, even to Tanzania to visit some other family members.”
“I will regret going to Uganda for the rest of my life. I never ever want to have any communication with anyone in Uganda. I cut contact with all my friends.”
The niece who wants to be soldier to carry gun
On the day of her arrest, it was around 11pm on a Thursday. Business in the bar was starting to pick up. Clients were filling up. As she was speaking on the phone, a soldier pointed a Pistol at her shouting: “Dina hands up!”
The female soldier had a cloth which she used to blindfold Kamikazi. In the ensuing chaos, a male acquaintance in the bar pleaded with the soldiers to tell him where they were taking Kamikazi. “To Mbarara police station,” they shouted back. He would look for her to no avail.
Kamikazi was moved to Kampala that night. There were other captives in the car, but they were all ordered not to utter any single word. However, the soldiers in the vehicle conversed all the way. Sometimes when the captives tried to lift their heads, the soldiers shouted: “Stay down. These Kagame woman are commandos. They can do anything.”
At the CMI facility, Kamikazi was with Muhongerwa Jessica and the other Rwandan woman. The torture went on, as the soldiers asked; “Tell us everything. Are you Kagame’s spy?”. She was told that she was a police commando.
After giving no expected answers, she would be taken away as the soldiers retorted; “so that you have time to think through what we have asked”.
For most of the days in captivity: Kamikazi like the others were hooded throughout, electrocuted, undressed, beaten and kicked hard in the abdomen. When Kamikazi begins narrating, she holds back emotions and appears not to want to talk anymore.
On the morning of December 28, 2017, they were put in a van, but not hooded and told they were being taken back to their places of work. Kamikazi and Muhongerwa thought they were going back to Mbarara.
“We passed through Mbarara and we didn’t even bother asking why we were not stopping. We just wanted to go home,” she said, in similar sentiments also echoes by Muhongerwa from a separate interview.
As for what impact the disappearance had on the children, Kamikazi cites the eldest daughter, who was visiting her father in Tanzania when The Chronicles visited. As the interview goes on, the younger niece comes back from primary school. What do you want to be in future, we ask; “A soldier”, she answers in perfect English. Why, we ask again; “I want to be a soldier so that I can carry a gun to protect my country.”
Kamikazi tells us the niece is very protective of her aunt. When she sees Kamikazi with a person unknown to her, the young girl becomes moody. We were told the girl knows what happened to Kamikazi. It is difficult to say whether the responses that the young girl gave to us were because of her aunt’s ordeal. But there is no doubt.
Were you a spy and why is it that you were targeted, we ask Kamikazi. She responded: “During the election [August 2017], we enjoyed so much and regularly put on T-shirts of my President. Many people did in my bar and home. We celebrated openly. I think that is how they thought I was a spy.”