There is still no information on the whereabouts of Lieutenant Joel Mutabazi, a former body guard to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who was reportedly kidnapped in Kampala on Tuesday.
Mutabazi, who worked as Kagame’s body guard for 20 years, went missing from his United Nations High Commission of Refugees—UNHCR rented home in Kawempe, a Kampala suburb. It is alleged that the now critic of Kagame’s leadership was kidnapped from his home and whisked to an unknown location.
According to Inyenyeri News, an online news agency in Rwanda, the Israeli-trained Rwandan commando was allegedly kidnapped by a group of five men comprising of two Ugandan police officers and three other Rwandan security agents. Inyenyeri News says the five men stormed Mutabazi’s home at about 4pm and sprayed him with a substance that weakened him before whisking him away to an unknown location.
Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba confirms that there was a kidnap complaint of a Rwandan National filed at the Kawempe police station and that investigations had commenced into the matter. She however declined to give details.
Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Uganda, Major General Frank Mugambage, when contacted on phone told URN that he was busy to comment on the matter. He referred our reporter to the High Commission offices to make an appointment to meet him. At the High Commission the URN reporter was told to go there on Monday next week.
Mutabazi had earlier last year survived an attack at his former home in Kasangati after unknown assailants attacked his house and shot bullets that missed him and his family. He was then placed under police protection until the UNHCR got him a new home that he was staying in till yesterday’s attack.
The news agency in their article claimed that a witness to the kidnap managed to identify one man among the attackers as Rene Rutagungira. Documents from the Rwanda National Human Rights Commission identify Rene Rutagungira as a retired army Sergeant, who was prosecuted in 2000 in connection with the mysterious death of a Rwandan Businessman identified as Victor Bayingana. He was however acquitted of the charge.
The disappearance of Mutabazi comes at a time when Rwandan asylum seekers in Uganda are increasingly lodging complaints of being haunted by suspected hit-squads.
In June this year, some 16 students from Rwanda escaped to Uganda and asked for asylum alleging harassment by their home government. They also claimed that they were being conscripted into the ranks of the M23 rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a claim dismissed by Ambassador Mugambage, who said the students were misled into committing crimes back home.
Mugambage also dismissed allegations that the Kigali government was operating a hit-squad in Kampala targeting critics of President Kagame’s leadership. The students have since been taken and temporarily resettled in Arua.
On December 2, 2011, Charles Ingabire, a journalist who was living in Uganda as a political refugee, was gunned down while hanging out at a bar in Kampala. He was editor of Inyenyeri News, an online publication critical President Paul Kagame’s government. Ambassador Mugambage later described the slain editor as someone who fled from justice in his home country into Uganda.
Though Mugambage regretted Ingabire’s death, he was quick to dismiss him as someone not worth the kind of media attention and titles that did not suit his background.
A few months after Ingabire’s death, another Rwandan asylum seeker, Sergeant Dominic Sabagasani was also gunned down in Kampala. The murders remain unresolved to date.