KAMPALA — International Relief and Human Rights Initiative (IRHRI), a US-based rights firm has described as propaganda, reports that French citizen Benjamin Rutabana who allegedly disappeared on Ugandan soil last year, was murdered in cold blood by the Rwanda government.
Mr Greg Smith Heavens, the CEO and Founder President, IRHRI, was responding to reports by a local publication on weekend that claimed that Mr. Rutabana was murdered in cold blood by the Rwandan government.
The website, in the story quotes a 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 … 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 said.
However according to some sources, Rutabana’s disappearance came after a standoff with his formers colleagues in the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) a political formation allegedly led by Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, Rwanda’s former Chief of General 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,” an unnamed commander in the M23 rebel group is quoted by 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 Rwandan top officials.
But Mr. Greg has dismissed the claims, describing them as baseless and diversionary.
Quoting his most recent findings, Mr. Greg confirmed that Rutabana is well, alive and in 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 personal interests of Gen Nyamwasa and his close confidants in Uganda’s top security agencies,” Greg said on Monday.
He notes 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.
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.
Meanwhile, Dr David Mushabe, a lawyer that IRHRI contracted to legally pursue the release of Rutabana, also rubbished the latest reports that court dismissed an application for writ 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.