KAMPALA — A local online publication, Soft Power News has secretly removed from its site an inaccurate story that peddled a conspiracy theory about the alleged murder of a French citizen Benjamin Rutabana by Rwandan administration.
The story had remained online for some weeks after International Relief and Human Rights Initiative (IRHRI), a US-based human rights firm contacted by Rutabana’s family to help trace his whereabouts, pointed out basic problems with the assertions and described it as diversionary.
Pundits said the controversial article by SoftPower News lacked high degree of editorial scrutiny and upon appropriate review, probably “the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed”.
The publication indicated it had allegedly interviewed a Rwandan army deserter who allegedly told them he had witnessed the killing of Rutabana.
Rutabana, a French citizen of Rwandan origin allegedly 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.
Mr Greg Smith Heavens, the CEO and Founder President, IRHRI, rubbished the claims and 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. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, Rwanda’s former Chief of General Staff who is also exiled in South Africa.
Sources Kayumba wants to divert human rights organisations and French government from pursuing Rutabna’s 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.
“These people (publication) 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, they also never interviewed M23 commander as they claim. The story itself had been cooked, shame on them,” he noted, adding that the act of deleting the story clearly indicates that it 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 ecurity 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 24th August between 2:00 am and 3:00 am am local time from 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.