Rwanda: Local YouTuber tells his story on his escape to Uganda, return

January 14, 2022
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It is a few minutes past noon, on a hot Thursday in Gicumbi district, Byumba sector in the remote Nyamabuye village.

There, Gilbert Shyaka a local YouTuber welcomes us to his home, a few hours after settling back in the family house that had been empty for nearly four months.

Shyaka had just returned to his home village after illegally crossing into Uganda, with support rendered by one Eugenia Muhayimana, who currently resides in New Castle, England.

The 30 year old triggered public attention last year when he appeared on “Umurabyo TV” spreading anti-Rwanda content.

The YouTube channel is one of the platforms that continue to propagate a revisionist agenda in the country, some of whom face different charges including genocide denial crimes.

“I would be requested to speak on these platforms so that my music products are able to be promoted,” said the self-proclaimed songwriter and singer.

For every talk show, Shyaka told The New Times that he would leave his contacts for reference.

“This is how I came in contact with several figures including Muhayimana,” he added.

Despite many people contacting him, Shyaka said that Muhayimana particularly showed more interest in supporting him to an extent of giving him free money.

Shyaka, a father of two sons says that his relationship with Muhayimana grew until she requested for all of his information including the brother’s and wife’s contacts.

“She also asked me to create my own YouTube channel saying that my work would earn a wider audience including the international community. That is how I ended up with (Ijwi ry’Imfubyi).”

The escape

According to Shyaka, Muhayimana kept a close relationship purporting to be his mentor, and she kept telling him that he was not safe in Rwanda and that he would not survive for long.

“She often told me that they would kidnap me, kill me, or even imprison me for a long time.”

Leaving Rwanda, was never my plan, Shyaka asserted, even when I asked her how it was possible she reassured me that “This is nothing hard for us.”

“Don’t worry. There are a lot of people we help cross into Uganda. Instead of risking of your life, I will take you to a safe place,” she would tell him.

The two would later agree that he goes through Cyanika until Shyaka’s wife suggested they go through Gatuna.

“We were intercepted by security officials while near Gatuna, they asked for identification which I had but my wife didn’t have.”

“I reported to Muhayimana everything that was happening and she advised that I deviate and return to Musanze the next morning where she would then arrange my escape.”

Upon reaching, after leaving his two children with their grandmother, Shyaka found a motocyclist who facilitated his travel before meeting two other young men who were also crossing into Uganda.

“I reached Kisoro town, and I was assured by my handlers that everything had been settled.”

CMI’s role

In Kisoro, he was received by a man only identified as ‘Boy’ who escorted him to another place called Kyabira.

After a series of movements, Shyaka got another order from Muhayimana, saying that from then he would address her as his sister.

“When I reached Kyabira, I told them that I had fled Rwanda, because they wanted to kill me,” he added, “they transferred me to the police station where I spent a night.”

At the police station, he would wait for another group of officers, one of them with a rank of captain, before being taken to a facility he couldn’t identify.

“They also left me there and I was transferred to another car where I was taken to another detention centre.”

On reaching there, one of the officers briefed the rest saying that “we found him not to be a criminal.” Nonetheless, he remained detained in the same place.

Three days later, he recalls being put into an elevator and taken to an upper floor where met a man identified as Captain John Habyarimana.

Habyarimana was the only person Shyaka had met speaking fluent Kinyarwanda.

“I met him on several occassions to answer different questions and sometimes he would be with other people including whites.”

Shyaka says that he was only allowed to access a mobile phone once in two weeks. And that the only person he was allowed to speak to was Muhayimana.

“I remember one day when I was sitting on one of the tables in that building and that’s where I came across the word CMI (Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence). It then later occurred to me that the place I was at was actually the CMI headquarters.”

Getting asylum

According to Shyaka, after 68 days in the country top level institutions as high as the Office of the Prime Minister intervened to facilitate him get a certificate as an asylum seeker, a process that normally takes much longer.

Documents seen by The New Times from his home indicate that Shyaka received the certificate in October 29, 2021.

“They rented a lodge for me where I was resided at the time.”

Here, he was ordered to reactivate his YouTube channel and would be given content to publish, which was all tarnishing the government of Rwanda.

In the interview, he said that he got enough time to reflect on his life and what he was doing to his country. “It occurred to me that for the rest of my life, I would only survive by tarnishing Rwanda my country.”

“YouTube really won’t help solve any problem our country is facing. I tasted four months of not having a place to call home, I felt my children deserved better and so does everyone,” he asserted.

Asked about his lowest point, Shyaka narrated how his brother, who has also been lured into the same trap, “and has not turned back from the absurd path.”