The managers of a Ugandan-based website SoftPower News happen to be facing total confusion and backlash after publishing on their website a story claiming that Benjamin Rutabana, a French citizen is dead.
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 dated August 30, 2020, they claimed to have interviewed a Rwandese army deserter who allegedly told them he had witnessed the killing of French citizen Benjamin Rutabana in cold blood.
“I received Rutabana and saw everything. I witnessed his brutal execution by Rwanda’s Defence Intelligence. 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.
However, immediately after being brought to the attention of this fake story, Mr Greg Smith Heavens, the CEO and Founder President of International Relief and Human Rights Initiative (IRHRI), a US-based human rights firm contacted by Rutabana’s family to help trace his whereabouts; trashed it in a statement he released providing the truth that Rutbana is alive. He rubbished the story as fake, baseless and diversionary.
“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 organizations and democratic countries for involvement in crimes against humanity. The whole act is completely against Humanity and UNHCR criteria of refugee’s rights protection,” he said.
Quoting highly placed security sources, Mr Greg says, Rutabana is still alive and also believes he is Uganda.
“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 learned that Rwanda had picked suspicious interest in him.”
Mr Greg said insists that neither did the news website interview Tindifa nor did they interview the M23 commander as they claim.
To further assert that Rutabana is well alive and being protected, Mr Greg revealed: “Our sources in Rwandan government and in the security apparatus also told us that Rutabana never traveled to Rwanda in the first place. 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.”
After learning about these bitter truths, the website managers found themselves in a situation where they could not keep the story online after the truths about the matter were provided and had to pull down the story moments later. We noticed that the story was offline by Monday.
Mr Greg said on Tuesday: “The story itself had been cooked, shame on them. The act of deleting the story clearly indicates that it was a purely concocted story.”
In the first place, it is unprofessional to pull down a story however fake it may be. The right thing to do would be to apologize to those inconvenienced by it and show commitment to do better next time. However, out of humiliation, the website instead of swallowing their pin and apologizing to the public, they have restored the story from the trash.
This has left many people shocked including their ardent readers.
One of them who preferred anonymity told us: “SoftPower have done me a disservice, I have been respecting their professionalism, but they have disappointed me. How could they approve a fake story, and then after realizing it was fake and delete it, why then restore it. This might throw them in a noxious fight with human rights organizations.”