A Ugandan website, SoftPower News, has run a story claiming that Benjamin Rutabana, a French citizen who disappeared on Ugandan soil last year, was murdered in cold blood by Rwandan government.
The local website, in the story quotes a self-proclaimed former Rwandan soldier who claims to have witnessed the killing of Rutabana.
“I received Rutabana and saw everything. I witnessed his brutal execution by Rwanda’s Defence Intelligence Chief – Brig Gen Vincent Nyakarundi. After that I had to flee with my family to Uganda,” Lt Gerald Tindifa, an alleged former ADC of Nyakarundi, is quoted as saying.
“In Rwanda, if you are involved in such an operation, you know for sure that one day all of you involved will get killed. That is how our intelligence operates, to conceal and forever bury evidence. I am grateful to God that my family and I are safe. I also pray that God comforts the family of Rutabana,” he reportedly told SoftPower News website.
Sources say, Rutabana disappearance came after a standoff with his formers colleagues in the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) a rebel group led by Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, Rwanda’s former Chief of Staff who is also exiled in South Africa.
The same website reports that before being killed, Rutabana was betrayed by his colleagues who took him from Uganda to DR Congo where he met unmentioned M23 rebel group commander, who eventually handed him over to Rwanda.
“It’s dangerous, there’s nothing to do. Since Rutabana passed here and was abducted in Rwanda, he has not returned. He did not want to go to Rwanda, but he was forced. Help the world know that Rutabana is no more. Ask Kagame or Nyakarundi,” an unnamed commander in the M23 rebel group is quoted by SoftPower as saying.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that Rwanda’s Military Intelligence exploited their close ties with the Congolese rebel group to coordinate the operation that lured Rutabana into DR Congo and immediately handed him over to Rwandan intelligence authorities.
Pressed by the news website to find out if he feels any remorse for taking Rutabana from Congo to Kigali where he says Rutabana’s life was ended, Tindifa said, “orders are orders – one has no choice or else you are killed,” he said, adding that he had orders from Nyakarundi and Kagame.
However, Mr Greg Smith Heavens, the CEO and Founder President, International Relief and Human Rights Initiative (IRHRI), a US based human rights firm contacted by Rutabana’s to help trace his whereabouts, has trashed all the above claims as baseless and diversionally.
“We strongly believe that the information we have so far gathered and continue to gather is undoubtedly correct. We well know that Rwanda has no hand in the disappearance of Rutabana. His disappearance is mainly based on personal interests of Gen Nyamwasa and his close confidants in Uganda’s top security agencies,” he said.
Sources say Rutabana and Nyamwasa had fallen out in the months preceding his visit to Uganda and that this fallout, it is said in some circles, to have led to his betrayal in Kampala or rather someone in his circles blew the whistle to Ugandan authorities.
It is alleged that the duo differed in opinions, on among others the killing of their boys in DRC, and the latter (Nyamwasa) seemed not to act. Thereafter some of the survivors called Rutabana in confidence that they had actually fled to Uganda.
So Rutabana’s visit to Uganda was meant to improvise safety for the survivors. However, it is believed that Nyamwasa thought that the former was actually undermining him, if he came to Uganda and since he has colleagues in Uganda’s security circles so he blackmailed him leading to his immediate arrest.
Mr Greg added: “We can confidently confirm that Rutabana is well, alive and in Uganda. Our most recent findings indicate that following our instant pressure and diplomatic processes with Ugandan officials, President Museveni picked interest into the matter and ordered for Rutabana’s safety. This was after he learnt that Rwanda had picked suspicious interest in him.”
He noted that the individuals trading rumours that Rutabana is dead must be agents of Gen Nyamwasa who wants to divert human rights organisations and French government from pursuing his unconditionally and safe release back to his family.
“I know each time we release a statement revealing how far we have reached in the search for Rutabana, we touch in the wounds of those individuals who planned to finish him off, because they know we have them close. We shall continue to expose these heartless people and they will find themselves with no place to hide,” Mr Greg revealed.
He vowed to remain committed to whatever they are doing and will not allow these Gen Nyamwasa’s agents to divert them. He also urged President Museveni to do everything he can in his power to secure the release of Rutabana such that his family can again have a glance at him.
“All our sources indicate that Rutabana is still within Uganda under the custody of top security organisations, that’s the conclusive information we have. I urge Mr Museveni and his government to ensure his immediate release. Uncertainty really engulfs his family, they need him since he was the breadwinner and has not been seen for a year now,” Mr Greg noted.
Dr David Mushabe, a lawyer that IRHRI contracted to legally pursue the release of Rubatabana, also rubbished reports by SoftPower News that Uganda court dismisses an application of Habeas Corpus.
“This inaccurate reporting, because the High Court never dismissed the Application for Habeas Corpus. The court granted the order of Habeas Corpus but all government security denied having custody of Rutabana and court closed the file. So please don’t mislead readers by reporting that the High Court dismissed the application because it was granted,” he said.
This website understands that IRHRI is set to file another application in court compelling whoever is holding Mr Rutabana to release him unconditionally so that he reunites with his family in Belgium. In this suit, new government institutions including the Department of Immigration and some individual security officers will be required to appear in court and give their individual accounts of what they really know about Mr Rutabana’s case.