Police Denies Kidnapping Kagame Bodyguard

The Ugandan Police continues to distance itself from reports that its officers kidnapped Lt. Joel Mutabazi, the former body guard to Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Mutabazi was reportedly kidnapped on the evening of Tuesday August 20 at UNIK hotel in Kyaliwajjala, near Kampala. The kidnappers are said to have used a fake Interpol arrest warrant.

Lt Joel Mutabazi (in checked shirt) plays soccer with his former boss President Paul Kagame.
Lt Joel Mutabazi (in checked shirt) before he fell out with his former boss President Paul Kagame.

An unidentified group of armed men stormed his Hotel room and whisked him away in a white Ipsum car registration number UAK 551B. It later emerged that he had been arrested by Police and detained at Jinja Road Police Station.

Uganda Police deputy spokesperson Patrick Onyango in a press release on Thursday said police had earlier received an Interpol arrest request from the Government of Rwanda on the 14th August 2013 for Mutabazi’s over charges of armed robbery. They then acted on the warrant and arrested him from his room at UNIK hotel in Kyaliwajjala.

This latest statement contradicts comments made on Wednesday by Judith Nabakooba, the police spokesperson who told local media that the police had also received a kidnap complaint and that they were investigating the matter.

Onyango’s statement adds that Mutabazi was detained at Jinja road police station awaiting the processing of documents for his formal extradition to Rwanda.

It is from here that the police discovered he was under the protection of the Office of the Prime minister and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). They later released him after State Minister for Disaster Preparedness Musa Ecweru presented formal documents of his asylum.

Yesterday, the UNHCR protested the arrest of Mutabazi saying the treatment of Rwandan asylum seekers in Uganda was deteriorating. The agency also called for Mutabazi’s immediate release.

Daniel MacIsaac, the UNHCR Senior Communications Officer, said the agency is sending “a strong protest note to the Ugandan government over the recent spate of abductions of refugees and asylum-seekers and the assassination attempts on Rwandan refugee Joel Mutabazi by people who appear to be non-Ugandans.” He further notes that the “impunity displayed by people who are clearly non-Ugandan but operating inside Uganda is an affront to the asylum regime in Uganda.”

In the Interpol Rwanda arrest warrant request, it is alleged that Mutabazi together with two other individuals was involved in an armed robbery at Banque De Kigali in September 2011. Mutabazi, who served as President Kagame’s body guard for over 20 years before falling out with the system, is accused of using three sub-machine guns to steal ten million Rwanda Francs from Rwanda’s biggest commercial bank.

Mutabazi has since his fall-out with the Kigali government criticised President Kagame for being a dictator who has run the country along tribal lines. He survived an attack at his former home in Kasangati in July last year and has been under UNHCR protection since then.

In 2011, Mutabazi escaped from Rwanda where he had been detained by the country’s intelligence services for 17 months. After the Kasangati attack, Mutabazi applied to UNHCR to be transferred to another country however to date the request has not yet been honoured.

UNHCR’s Daniel MacIsaac confirms they received Mutabazi’s request and transferred him to another UNHCR safe house with increased police protection. They say plans are underway to fly him to another country which he declined to disclose.

Rwandan nationals have continuously complained of insecurity in Kampala. Charles Ingabire, an editor of a Rwandan news agency critical of Kagame’s government, was gunned down in Kampala in December last year. Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Uganda, Major General Frank Mugambage, told the media then that while he regretted the death of Ingabire, the editor had run away from justice after committing crimes in Rwanda.

After Ingabire’s death, some Rwandan refugees living in Uganda accused General Mugambage of knowing of coordinating a hit squad sent by his government to eliminate opponents, a claim he angrily dismissed as rubbish.

Another Rwandan national Innocent Kaliisa was kidnapped this week and his whereabouts are still unknown. Ugandan police now say they were not aware of his kidnap and are starting an inquiry into the matter.

In June, some 16 students escaped from Rwanda and accused their home government of harassing them. But Ambassador Mugambage dismissed their claims and said the students had committed crimes back home.

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