Rwandan dissident Tribert Rujugiro has embarked on an aggressive campaign to portray a positive image of his tainted Tobacco business in northern Uganda.
The move follows numerous media reports that have exposed how bribery, tax evasion and corruption have characterized his way of doing business.
And, to get away with it, he has offered shares to top Ugandan military and government officials, notably General Caleb Akandwanaho a.k.a Salim Saleh, a brother to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.
President Museveni himself, in a letter that was addressed to President Paul Kagame recently, alluded to the fact that Rujugiro had found a safe haven in Uganda.
In the letter, which was published in Uganda government-owned daily, New Vision, President Museveni made a case for Rujugiro’s stay in Uganda despite the concerns that Rwanda has laid before him attesting to the danger he poses to Rwanda through his tobacco company.
According to documents filed with the Registrar of Companies in Uganda, Saleh was given a 15 percent stake in exchange for “security” services.
It is therefore clear the PR is spearheaded by Museveni and Gen Akandwanaho whitewash Rujugiro as a genuine investor while the real intention is continued support to RNC activities in Uganda.
As part of the PR campaign, Rujugiro is targeting three media companies: State-owned New Vision, The East African, a weekly and NTV – a private TV broadcast company.
Journalists from the media houses were to spend five days in Arua, with clear instructions to talk to “successful farmers that have benefited from Leaf Tobacco Uganda.”
According to a reliable source involved with the PR campaign, the goal of the media field visit is “to enhance and deepen Meridian Tobacco Company’s [MTC] image.”
MTC is the holding company for Leaf Tobacco Uganda.
“We need a strong life-changing story of a poor farmer who has been partnering with Leaf Tobacco. 2 women and 2 men would be good,” the source said about the instructions received by the reporters before they went to the field.
For any gullible reader or viewer, this would make a good reading – a company making a difference in people’s lives.
However, for Rujugiro, the objective is to divert attention about how he is using his wealth to finance efforts to destabilize Rwanda.
His blood money has facilitated Uganda security operatives who work with Rwandan dissidents in Uganda to recruit rebels to join a military offensive against Rwanda. The blood money has also facilitated the arrest and torture of innocent Rwandans who visit Uganda.
And through unethical business practices such as bribery and PR campaigns, he is able to get away with it. A tactic he uses on a global scale.
In West Africa, the Nigerian government withdrew concessions granted to his business after it learned that he was enriching himself at the expense of Nigerian tax payers.
In South Africa, he was charged with 25 counts of fraud. He was arrested and later fined 55 million Rands [$3.7 m].
In Burundi, he escaped from prison while serving a sentence for financial crimes that included money laundering, smuggling and tax evasion. His blood money has also contributed to the ongoing conflict which has forced 400,000 Burundians to flee their country.
And in DRC, a UN Group of Experts report of 2008 implicated Rujugiro for financing a rebel group in the DRC - Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP). He then invested heavily in PR campaign and lobbying to sanitize his image.
The latest PR campaign is yet another indication of how Rwandan dissidents, with the support of the Ugandan government, are working to destabilize Rwanda, and then deny when exposed.