June 13, 2013

Former M23 Chief Negotiator Feared Kidnapped

Francois Tuyihimbaze Rucogoza, the former chief negotiator of the M23 rebels is feared kidnapped. Rucogoza was allegedly kidnapped over the weekend from Najjanankumbi in Kampala district by suspected Rwandan operatives. 

Rucogoza, a close friend of Bosco Ntaganda, fell out with his colleagues on the negotiation team after General Sultani Makenga ousted Bishop Jean-Marie Runinga, the civilian leader of the M23 rebels. He resigned as the secretary general of the M23 rebels in March this year, and sought asylum in Uganda.

Speaking to the media Thursday on condition of anonymity for fear of their lives, Rucogoza’s colleagues said that their leader was kidnapped by suspected Rwanda operatives and taken to Kigali. They explained that they had scheduled a meeting on Sunday in anticipation of going back to the office of the Prime Minister but when they called his phone, it was switched off.

The officials say that they started tracing for Rucogoza everywhere including his home in vain, until when they called up some people in Rwanda who told them that he was locked up in Kigali. The former M23 negotiators say they are worried of their safety in Uganda.

Asked  why Rwanda government would be interested in Rucogoza, the sources claimed that he was a very close friend of Bosco Ntaganda and it’s only him who may know why he surrendered to the ICC.  However, during the interview with the media in a Kampala suburb, the former negotiators received a call from Rucogoza claiming that he had been released but was still in Kigali –Rwanda. They however, expressed fear that the phone call could have been stage managed to create an impression that Rucogoza could have been released only to bump him off later.

Rucogoza’s alleged kidnap comes barely a month after the kidnap of another Rwandan national Emmy Ntabana from his home in National Housing flats in Namungoona.  Ntabana, a former operative in the external security of Rwanda was alleged lured and kidnapped by Bosco Ngango, a known Rwandan operative in Kampala.

Ntabana allegedly fled to Uganda after he was assigned to follow up people opposed to President Paul Kagame and sought asylum. His fellow asylum seekers fear that Ntabana might have been killed since it’s close to one month when they last heard from him.

The Asylum seekers claim that General Ibingira, a former commander of the Rwandan reserve force is heading the squad that lures Rwandan Asylum seekers and kidnaps them. Apollo David Kazungu, the Commissioner for refugees in the Office of the Prime Minister said that he was not aware of the alleged kidnap of Rucogoza or Ntabana. Our attempts to speak to Frank Mugambage, the Rwandan Ambassador in Kampala were futile as his phone went unanswered.

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