By Alex Muhumuza
With pressure mounting on the Ugandan leadership to produce Benjamin Rutabana – an RNC official that badly fell out with his boss Nyamwasa before disappearing in Uganda last year – attempts by Kampala to deflect blame upon Kigali are no longer merely incompetent. They have now become comical.
An example of this is a recent article on the Softpower website, one of the several misinformation outlets sponsored by Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), that repeats the discredited claim that “Ben Rutabana was captured in DRC by M23 rebels and handed over to Rwanda.” To buttress this tall tale, Softpower – a tool run by Sarah Kagingo, formerly a member of President Museveni’s social media team – quotes the even more fictitious words of one Lt. Gerald Tindifa, a Rwandan army deserter.
“Lt. Tindifa, former ADC of Rwanda’s Defense Intelligence Chief Brig. Gen. Vincent Nyakarundi, revealed he witnessed Ben Rutabana’s murder in cold blood,” claims Softpower. Tindifa, a serial fabricator of tall tales that even lies about who his father was (he claims his father is the late, valiant liberation war fighter Maj. Ngumbayingwe but in fact his real father was one Rubagumya), never was with Nyakarundi in the military. “He obviously has been coached by Uganda’s security services to concoct slanders against senior members of RDF,” said a source familiar with his desertion.
Tindifa is someone that deserted from the Rwandan military earlier this year after being lured by Uganda’s Special Forces Command. In RDF he first worked in IT, briefly, then was transferred to the army shop due to indiscipline.
To put out tales about M23 supposedly kidnapping Rutabana in Congo, and backing them with fictitious accounts of a deserter from the Rwanda army shop, Kandiho’s hired propagandists are like the proverbial drowning man that clutches at straws.
The facts of Rutabana’s disappearance are very public, for anyone interested in learning about the incident. On September 5 last year Rutabana, the then RNC “Commissioner of Capacity Building” arrived at Entebbe via Dubai on an Emirates flight. He was in Uganda on RNC business. It is common knowledge that RNC is one of the main terrorist groups sponsored by Uganda as proxies in long-standing plots to destabilize the security of Rwanda.
At the airport, according to reliable sources, Rutabana was received by Sam Ruvuma, a high-ranking RNC official. With Ruvuma were two agents of CMI. This must have looked normal to Rutabana since CMI works hand in hand with RNC.
But then, a few days later, on 8th September Rutabana went missing. He went out of phone contact with his wife, as disclosed in a panicked letter signed by nine of his family members, addressed to RNC leadership. The phone Rutabana last talked to his wife on belonged to Sam Ruvuma. Rutabana’s family is absolutely certain that Kayumba Nyamwasa, was responsible for his disappearance. In interviews Diane Rutabana had with BBC and VoA, she laid out all the facts, as the family did in the letter, to show RNC’s culpability.
The letter, penned on 2nd October – 24 days after Rutabana went missing – and addressed to Jerome Nayigiziki, General Coordinator of RNC, begins: “We, family and friends of Benjamin Rutabana write to you to request an inquiry in the disappearance of Mr. Rutabana as well as his prompt return to his family in Belgium.” It goes on to outline the facts and motives why Nyamwasa, together with powerful members of Nyamwasa’s family in RNC, wanted Rutabana eliminated.
“In the weeks before his departure (to Uganda) Mr. Rutabana revealed to his spouse, family and close friends about his fears concerning his safety, based on strong disagreements with RNC’s First Vice- Coordinator Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa as well as the latter’s brother in law Mr. Frank Ntwari,” says the letter. “His fears were confirmed by threats by other RNC officials about getting arrested if he ventured again into Uganda,” it adds.
The family members single out “the animosity Nyamwasa’s in law Frank Ntwari (who is the RNC Youth Commissioner) consistently showed Rutabana before his disappearance.”
Even then, Rutabana persisted in going to Uganda. “He must have underestimated the dangers of doing so,” said a Facebook comment discussing RNC affairs.
Reports have over time exposed “the corrupt, nepotistic, and autocratic ways Nyamwasa has been running RNC”, things for which Rutabana was said to take Nyamwasa to task for.
Accusations against Nyamwasa have circled mainly on his misuse of RNC member funds, mainly to maintain a lavish personal lifestyle in South Africa, and to invest in his, and his wife’s businesses. Rutabana frequently collided with him on this, and issues like the appointment of close family members, like Ntwari, to important positions “and always assigning them the most important duties.”
Nyamwasa and his inner group really hated Rutabana, different sources have disclosed.
Recent independent investigations by an American rights group, International Relief and Human Rights Initiative (IRHRI) have confirmed as much. The investigations have also disclosed that Nyamwasa connived with CMI to have Rutabana arrested when he came to Uganda.
“We have discovered that there were misunderstandings between Rutabana, Nyamwasa and some other colleagues in RNC. They connived to portray him as ‘subversive’”, says a detailed report by IRHRI of 25 June, this year. “IRHRI has learnt that a few days after he arrived in Uganda, Mr. Rutabana was arrested and held at the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) offices in Mbuya.”
Now Kandiho and Nyamwasa are under pressure not only to produce Rutabana, but also pressure because Rutabana holds French citizenship, and France too has gotten involved in demands for accountability.
The investigation by the American rights group has been persistent in proving Rutabana is in custody of Ugandan security. CMI’S smears against Kigali aren’t working.
“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,” said Greg Smith Heavens, CEO of IRHRI.
Rwandans on their part look on in amusement.
Everyone knows Rwanda carries out its affairs by the book, such as has seen with the arrests and legal extraditions to Rwanda of major terrorism suspects, among these: FDLR bigwigs LaForge Fils Bazeye and Theophile Abega, Deo Mushayidi, FLN’s Callixte Nsabimana, RNC’s Habib Mudathir (and more than two dozen co-suspects), and much more recently Paul Rusesabagina.
As a Rwandan official remarked, “if Rutabana were in Rwandan custody, you can be certain his case too would be processed legally, and he would have his day in court.”