By Melodie Mukansonera
An investigation conducted by an American NGO, Relief and Human Rights Initiative (IRHRI), has revealed that vanished RNC bigwig Ben Rutabana is detained by Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).
According to observers, this development confirms recent reports that Rwanda National Congress boss Kayumba Nyamwasa connived with CMI head Maj. Gen. Abel Kandiho to abduct Rutabana after falling out with him.
Until his disappearance in September last year, Rutabana was a senior member of the RNC terror outfit as its “Commissioner for Capacity Development”. His disappearance after landing at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in September last year caused alarm and panic in his family. His wife Diane together with several family members then issued a letter and posted it on the Internet detailing that Rutabana had disappeared in Uganda.
They were emphatic that “RNC leadership completely was responsible.”
A report of the investigation posted by IRHRI reveals in detail the circumstances surrounding Rutabana’s disappearance, and also confirms how Nyamwasa is in constant contact with top Ugandan military personnel like Maj. Gen Kandiho on the matter. “IRHRI received a complaint pertaining Rutabana from his family for assistance in locating him after he went missing in September, 2019,” the report reads in part.
“IRHRI immediately launched an investigation into the matter and was able to establish that Rutabana flew to Uganda on September 8, 2019 on passport number 16DA52086. IRHRI also learnt that upon arrival in Uganda, he was arrested and held at CMI offices in Mbuya and later at Internal Security Organisation (ISO) for interrogation to establish the purpose of his visit to Uganda,” continues the report.
In October last year, Rutabana’s wife told BBC and VoA that her husband had told her that he feared for his life after falling out with RNC’s top leadership, including Nyamwasa and Frank Ntwali, the brother in law of Nyamwasa. By then, it was alleged that their quarrels and wrangles were related to money, and power struggles – a fact that IRHRI’s investigation reiterates.
“These people have personal interests they are pursuing,” IRHRI says. “Rutabana’s arrest was caused by misunderstandings between him and Nyamwasa and some other colleagues in RNC.” It was said Rutabana’s misunderstandings with Nyamwasa worsened after the deaths of several RNC militias that had been recruited in Uganda and taken to RNC camps in DRC for training following heavy military routs.
The militias were crushed in the Congolese jungles mid last year and those that were captured were handed over to Rwanda to stand trial for their terrorist crimes.
Greg Smith Heavens, the president of IRHRI, told journalists over the weekend that the people handling Rutabana are “very powerful”, to the extent that “they threatened my organization.” He said: “the same people threatened some family members and leaders of the IRHRI, saying that if we did not stop following up the case they would influence the closure of our organization’s offices in Uganda,” reads part Heavens’ statement.
Meanwhile, Rutabana’s case unearthed the “pervasive infighting” within Ugandan security organs.
Observers point to how the likes of CMI and ISO keep blaming each other on who is holding Rutabana. Maj. Gen. Kandiho told the American NGO that his institution was not holding Rutabana, and then pointed the finger of accusation at ISO. “Try to engage any other official who will respond like me and revert to me if you will ever get one,” Kandiho is quoted saying to IRHRI investigators. “I know they’ve been trying to destroy one of my officers, Col. (now Brig.) CK. Asiimwe. Hope it’s not someone called Odong from ISO who gave you the information, if I am not mistaken?” added Kandiho.
Despite his denials, Kandiho hinted on having some knowledge about Rutabana with the remark that, “I think Rutabana was tricked.”
The IRHRI report concludes that Rutabana was not arrested “on open and direct order”, but that “his arrest is an arrangement between Nyamwasa’s group and individual state security (actors) that made him be where he is currently.”