At least 16 Rwandan students are seeking asylum in Uganda after fleeing Kigali amidst claims that they were being conscripted into the M23 rebel ranks.
The students first appeared at Old Kampala police station on Tuesday last week, where they recorded their presence and requested for asylum.
When approached on Friday, the students declined to speak to the press fearing reprisal action from people they believe to be operatives from their home country. Two years ago a Rwandan Editor was shot dead in Kampala by people suspected to be Rwandan security operatives.
Another student said two groups of University students had been taken to unknown destination. When this group of students demanded to know where they were being taken, they were threatened with arrest.
Information obtained by those close to the students indicates that they were alerted by their relatives serving in the Rwandan government about the planned conscription them into the M23 rebel ranks.
M23 is a rebel group fighting the government in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The United Nations believes the rebel group, whose fighters are ethnic Tutsi, is backed by Rwanda and Uganda, a claim dismissed by both countries.
The students both boys and girls looked frail and hungry. They were using the police toilets to bathe. However when asked whether they had had anything to eat, one girl said they had eaten by the mercy of God.
Rwandan Ambassador to Uganda, Maj. Gen. Frank Mugambage, declined to say anything. He was instead asking where the journalist had found the students. When told it was the police, Mugambage then suggested that the journalist should speak to policemen about the students.
Douglas Asiimwe, the Senior Protection Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister in the Department of Refugees, confirmed having heard the students’ presence in Uganda. Asiimwe could not, however, tell why they had fled their country.
This comes just over a week after seven suspected M23 rebels were arrested while on a recruitment mission in Kiruhura district.