SoftPower News, a website based in Uganda has pulled down a story in which they alleged to have interviewed a Rwandese army deserter who allegedly told them he had witnessed the killing of French citizen Benjamin Rutabana.
The website managers found themselves in a situation where they could not keep the story online after International Relief and Human Rights Initiative (IRHRI), a US-based human rights firm contacted by Rutabana’s family to help trace his whereabouts, trashed the story as fake, baseless and diversionary.
Rutabana, a French citizen of Rwandan origin disappeared on Ugandan soil in September 2019, a few days after he had landed in the country for a business trip.
In the story (which has since been deleted), the local website, quoted a self-proclaimed former Rwandan soldier who claimed to have witnessed the killing of Rutabana in cold blood.
“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, was 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 the 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.
The same website reported that before being killed, Rutabana was betrayed by his colleagues who took him from Uganda to DR Congo where he met the 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 was quoted by SoftPower as saying.
The website further wrote 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 under the orders and command of Nyakarundi and Kagame.
IRHRI rubbishes the story
All this was rubbished by Mr Greg Smith Heavens, the IRHRI’s the CEO and Founder President, who said the plotters of the story were up to something else, most importantly playing diversionary tactics.
“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 the personal interests of Gen Nyamwasa and his close confidants in Uganda’s top security agencies,” he said.
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 in this world,” Mr Greg revealed.
About Rutabana’s disappearance
It is worth noting that 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.
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.
IRHRI reacts after the deletion of the fake story
“These people (of SoftPower News) don’t have any sense of humanity at all. See how they involved a person who is still seeking asylum (self-proclaimed Rwandan soldier) well knowing the consequences he could face if at all they actually interviewed the right guy. The story itself places whoever is called Gerald Tindifa at battle with humanitarian organisations and democratic countries for involvement in crimes against humanity. The whole act is completely against Humanity and UNHCR criteria of refugee’s rights protection,” Mr Greg said after the story was deleted.
“We know that a one Tindifa was never interviewed by that News website (SoftPower), they also never interviewed M23 commander as they claim. The story itself was been cooked, shame on them,” he noted.
The act of deleting the story clearly indicates that the story was concocted.
“Because we’ve got new information from Tindifa indicating that ever since he left his home country, he has never spoken to any media. He says he was surprised to find himself in news being quoted with words he never said. People behind the publication of the story had personal interests. Tindifa has no reason to speak to media at the moment because his safety matters first,” Mr Greg said.
“Our sources in Rwandan government and in the security apparatus also told us that Rutabana never traveled to Rwanda, you should ask where he disappeared from. Rutabana wanted to face justice not to be killed. When we contacted Vincent Nyakarundi, he refused to make any comments on allegations accusing him of participating in the alleged killing of Rutabana. Our latest updates on Rutabana highlights that he was last in communication on August 24th between 2.00 AM and 3.00 AM local time of where he is currently located. We are not supposed to be making any comments on fake news, but this was serious, we had to come out,” Mr Greg blushed.
Why Rutabana is protected in Uganda
Basing on this, sources say Rutabana is alive and well, and not being held against his will. After being taken through a torturous process after the blackmail, it’s safe to think Kayumba or anyone who might be acting on his behalf thought they had finished him off; letting him go has to be tactical since he is a key witness in the high stakes in Kigali-Kampala standoff.
Mr Greg again 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.