Uganda frees nine Rwandans as goodwill gesture amid tensions

In what could be a sign of easing tensions between the two east African neighbors, Uganda on Wednesday released nine Rwandan nationals. They were being accused of spying and political meddling in Kampala’s military court.

Kigali has repeatedly said that Kampala was holding hundreds of its citizens without charge. Uganda’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the release of the nine men was a gesture of goodwill meant to normalise relations between the two countries.

Ties between the two erstwhile allies took a negative turn when Kigali closed its border to Ugandan exports last February, denying Kampala millions of dollars in revenue.

Last August, presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame signed a pact in Angola to normalize relations but subsequent meetings have been failing.

Kigali has accused Kampala of harbouring rebel groups seeking to overthrow its government. Uganda denies the accusations.

Observers say the dispute could also have damaging consequences for the East African Community, a regional bloc to which Uganda and Rwanda are members.

Some of the released Rwandans on arrival at Gatuna border post Wednesday night

Officials have said that the released Rwandans will undergo thorough medical check-ups to ascertain their health condition. Some of those released previously have gone on to struggle with health conditions arising from torture enduring during their detention in Uganda. One of the victims, Silas Hategekimana, 43, succumbed to internal injuries in September last year.

Kigali says it expects Uganda to release hundreds of other Rwandans held in largely ungazetted detention centres in Uganda.

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