Rwanda’s opposition seeking to remove President Paul Kagame from power faced yet another hurdle after one of its key figures went missing.
ChimpReports has learned that the family of Benjamin Rutabana has not heard from him ever since he traveled from Belgium to East Africa early September.
According to a letter to Jérôme Nayigiziki, General Coordinator, Rwanda National Congress (RNC), the family of Rutabana expresses fears about the latter’s whereabouts and safety.
“We, family and friends of Mr. 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,” the letter dated October 2, 2019, reads in part.
Rutabana, a close associate of dissident General Kayumba Nyamwasa, is a brother of Adeline Rwigara.
Adeline is the mother of Diane Rwigara who unsuccessfully tried to challenge Kagame in the 2017 presidential elections in Rwanda.
This investigative website has learned that Rutabana left Brussels on Wednesday, 4 September 2019 at 21:45 on an Emirates Airlines flight.
He had a stopover at Dubai.
Rutabana then continued via Entebbe Airport where he landed on 5 September 2019 at 13:50 en route to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
He stayed in regular telephone contact with his wife, Diane Rutabana between 5 and 8 September 2019 – the day of his disappearance.
Mr. Rutabana’s return ticket displays 19 September 2019 at 21:30 as his scheduled return time using the same Emirates Airlines and he was due in Brussels on 20 September at 13:25.
According to the letter signed by Ms Diane Rutabana among other relatives and friends of Rutabana, the RNC top official did not return home.
“Unfortunately and for some unexplained reason, Mr. Rutabana never boarded that flight, and contrary to his usual practice he failed to make contact with his spouse to inform her of any delay or change of programme, and all calls to his telephone were unanswered,” the letter reads in part.
It adds: “On 19 September, the day Mr. Rutabana was due back in Belgium, his spouse received information about her husband’s illegal detention by elements of RUD Urunana in connection with Major Faustin Ntilikina; General Jean Michel Afurika; Mr. Rachidi and Mr. Frank Ntwali.”
The development comes at a time Rwanda’s Special Forces are intensifying operations in South and North Kivu regions of Eastern Congo.
In joint operations with the DRC army, Rwandan forces recently killed dozens of suspected RNC rebels in Minembwe, near the Rwanda-Burundi border in South Kivu.
Survivors of the Minembwe operation are facing treason charges at Rwanda’s military court in the capital Kigali.
The Rwandan military also recently raided rebel FDLR bases in North Kivu, killing the movement’s overall military commander, Sylvester Mudacumura among others.
It is suspected that Rutabana went to DRC where he was seized by RUD-Urunana, a splinter faction of the FDLR-FOCA that emerged in 2007 following a leadership quarrel in the FDLR movement over the remuneration of certain units.
Somehow, the Rwandan military learnt about the capture,
As soon as Rutabana was released, armed elements captured him before whisking him to an unknown area.
Sources say Rutabana could have been picked from the border.
It has been 24 days since Rutabana’s last communication with anybody in his family or his closest friends.
According to Ms Diane Rutabana, her husband usually communicates his whereabouts at least once every other day.
Between 28 September and 1 October 2019, several contacts were made between Mr. Rutabana’s family members and friends on one side and members of the RNC (Rwanda National Congress) Executive Committee as well as other high officials on the other, including with the First Vice-Coordinator Lt. General Kayumba Nyamwasa; Diplomacy & Relationships with Other Organizations Commissioner Ambassador Charlotte Mukankusi; Research Commissioner Jean-Paul Turayishimye and RNC members Théogène Rutayomba and Rugema Kayumba.
According to Rutabana’s family, Rutayomba and Rugema promised to make arrangements of a direct telephone contact between Mr and Mrs Rutabana by Thursday 3 October 2019 which didn’t happen.
“This is another strong indication the RNC or at least some of its leaders know where Rutabana is being held. Inconsistencies in initial statements received from RNC officials cited above prompted us to the conclusion they were either not equally informed or were trying to hide vital information concerning Mr. Rutabana whereabouts,” Rutabana’s family and associates said in a letter to RNC’s top leadership.
Rutabana is the head of RNC’s Capacity Development Commission.