November 19, 2021

No Local Official Has Bothered To Find Out Dismas Nsengimana’s Story

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Dismas Nsengimana and his wife Elizabeth Muragujimana with their daughter at home.

Since returning to his home village about three weeks ago, Dismas Nsengimana, 30, and his wife Elizabeth Muragujimana, 27, have not had any encounter with the local authorities.  

Yet, under normal circumstances, they should have been registered. To know who they are and what brings them to the area. It leaves the question; supposing they were a danger to the community? Officials would have to deal with a problem that has already happened.

Nsengimana’s family arrived at Kagitumba border on October 23, together with other 40 Rwandans who had been deported from Uganda. Nsengimana had been living in Kalangala district, an island located on Lake Victoria.

They spent the mandatory 10 days at a COVID-19 isolation center at Nyagatare hospital. From there, Musanze district provided them with exact transport fare from Nyagatare bus park to Musanze park.

They arrived around 10pm. They walked to their village in Cyuve sector, about 5km away.

Unlike many other deportees, Nsengimana had in 2019 returned briefly and built a small house. He rented it before going back to Uganda. So, when he returned, Nsengimana asked the tenant to give back their house.

Now in their house, with a 2-year-and-half baby girl, they had no money because all of it had been taken by Ugandans or they had to give out bribes. Nsengimana has another 9-year-old son who he left to live with a relative before relocating to Uganda.

For the first days in their home village, Nsengimana got food from neighbors. They couldn’t be defendants forever. They had to fend for themselves. Nsengimana asked a friend in the village to be the guarantor for him to be able to get a loan from a local cooperative. It succeeded. He received Rwf 50,000 ($50).

He began buying local brew called Ikigage sorghum beer, and selling it to neighbors. One section of their home is a drinking spot. The wife sells vegetables from their home.

Every day, Nsengimana makes a profit of up to Rwf 3,000. It is quite a significant amount of money in such a rural area. But Nsengimana tells us that compared to other neighbors, he is very poor.

“Others are OK. They have nice houses and farmland to cultivate. For us it will take more than two years to catch up,” he said.

The head of the village encountered Nsengimana as he walked along the main road that goes through their area to other sectors. The official asked Nsengimana who he was and why he had not come to register. Nsengimana responded that he would indeed soon.

Apart from that brief encounter, no official from the cell, sector or district knows the Nsengimana family is around. Nsengimana’s case is different from other deportees The Chronicles interviewed. They were even given houses or start-up capital.

Does it bother you that no one has come to see you, we ask Nsengimana. He responded: “No at all. What is important to me is that I’m in my country. I’m not being abused like it was in Kalangala. No one is taking anything without paying. No one is taking my property or money. Though the situation is tough, with time I will get back on my feet.”

Nsengimana is planning to acquire land in the upcoming planting season to grow potatoes and vegetables. The family hopes it will be major boost to their income.

LCI Chairman said Nsengimana deserves what he was going through

How did Nsengimana end up in Uganda, from rural Musanze? In March 2018, he, like many Rwandans with family is different Ugandan regions, engaged a relative to find work. He exited Rwanda via Cyanika border, on to Kisoro district.

In same bus, he continued to Kampala. From there, he came back to Mpigi district, where he started doing menial jobs like working on farms of Rwandans who had already settled in Mpigi. He was there for two months.

He relocated to Kalangala, settled in Kusu village located in Bufumila sub-county. In late 2018, Nsengimana invited fiancé. They began living together until having the daughter.  

Nsengimana tells us the problems that led to his decision to return to Rwanda began at the beginning of 2019.

During the weekly village meetings, local officials started speaking about Rwandans being a problem. Then ordinary people began complaining that Rwandans had taken over all fishing sites and all jobs from Ugandans.

That went on for months. The anti-Rwandans rhetoric intensified. They began telling Nsengimana and other Rwandans that since they have closed the border, then they should go back to there country.

“For my part, I didn’t know what was going on. So, they were just victimizing us,” said Nsengimana.

He says that in Kalangala, he managed to lease land where he was growing rice and other food stuffs. He would sell in the market.

But as anti-Rwandans activities got worse, buyers would either take his produce without paying, or would take it by-force and pay less the price.

“You couldn’t report anywhere. The LCI chairman couldn’t help, instead the leaders were saying we deserve what we are experiencing,” said Nsengimana.

The COVID-19 pandemic made it worse for Nsengimana and his wife. With few jobs around, and people in his village seeing him with a good house and money, they were openly hostile.

“They could openly say to me that I had taken what was rightfully theirs. I would respond that we have worked hard for whatever we had, not because we are Rwandans,” said Nsengimana.

No bribe, you dont continue

The situation remained like that until October this year, when Nsengimana sat with wife and they decided to move back to Rwanda.

They had 300,000 Uganda shillings cash savings, about Rwf 87,000. They left everything in the house including furniture. They left the island at 5am on the ferry.

As they disembarked, a Policeman and two soldiers stopped everyone asking for IDs. Nsengimana and his wife had only Rwanda ID Indangamuntu. They were asked to step aside and refused them to continue if they “don’t have anything to leave behind.”

Nsengimana says he knew they wanted a bribe. He paid them 30,000 Ugandan shillings (Rwf 8,600). They were let to continue.

The family headed to Kampala and booked Jaguar ticket. The journey was smooth until they reached Mbarara town. There was a roadblock with armed police and soldiers.

The police officer who entered the bus spoke in perfect Kinyarwanda saying: “Everyone show us their ID.”

Nsengimana, the wife and other six Rwandans were taken off the bus; were taken to Makenke military barracks for a few hours. There were many other Rwandans there. All of them were taken to Mbarara police station.

There, they recorded statements which included details about when they arrived in Uganda, for what, where and why they were going back to Rwanda.

They spent the night at Mbarara police station. The next day all of them were taken to court and charged with illegal stay in Uganda. The magistrate ordered that they be deported.

The next day, which was a Saturday, they were all driven in a prisons department bus from Mbarara to Kagitumba border. Here, they were told to relinquish Ugandan SIM cards.

While others were forced to give bribes at Mbarara police station, Nsengimana survived there.

Back in his village in Musanze, we ask Nsengimana how he thinks he can be supported. He says if he can get small capital, even if it is in form of a loan, he will get back to his feet quickly.

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