International Relief and Human Rights Initiative (IRHRI), a United States-based rights firm working to trace French citizen Benjamin Rutabana whereabouts has denounced media reports that their client was murdered in cold blood by Rwanda security operatives.
Mr. Greg Smith Heavens, the CEO and Founder President, IRHRI, described the claims in the media as baseless, diversionary, and ‘some form sponsored reporting’.
“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,” Mr. Greg told this website.
He added; “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”.
This was after a local publication in Kampala on weekend ran a story claiming that Mr. Rutabana who disappeared on Ugandan soil last year, was murdered in cold blood by the Rwandan government.
The publication in the story quotes a self-proclaimed former Rwandan soldier who claims to have witnessed the killing of Mr. 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 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 the website.
Sources say, Rutabana disappearance came after a standoff with his former 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 publication added 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 the publication 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.
But Mr. Greg in a statement has vehemently binned the narrative, describing it as baseless and diversionary.
He said that individuals trading rumours that Rutabana is dead must be agents of Gen Nyamwasa who want to divert human rights organisations and the 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.
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.
Security sources indicated that the duo differed in opinions, on among others the killing of their boys in DRC, and the latter (Nyamwasa) seemed not to act.
Mr. Greg believes Rutabana’s visit to Uganda was meant to improvise safety for the survivors who are said to have fled to Kampala. 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.
Dr. David Mushabe, a lawyer that IRHRI contracted to legally pursue the release of Rutabana, also rubbished reports aimed a dig at the publication. He denied reports that the Uganda court dismissed an application of Habeas Corpus.
“This is 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 him (Rutaban) in custody and the 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.
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.