Fred Lumbuye’s viral social media posts and tirades fearlessly announced his disdain for the ruling NRM regime.
They formed an indelible part of his character. But when the Turkey-based social media blogger disappeared off the social media grid after the Ugandan government announced a manhunt for him, questions swirled. What happened? Was he arrested? And what did the Ugandan government have to do with it?
But top-level army sources now claim Lumbuye has been reportedly transferred to a safe house in Nakasongola away from Gulu Air Force base where he was earlier detained.
The army recently denied holding Lumbuye at the air base but an insider source said he was transferred from Gulu after The Observer tweeted about his location. Gulu was immediately considered “no longer safe and secret.”
In Nakasongola, Lumbuye has not been tortured and has access to all life’s basics except his mobile phone. Army officials are in full control of his gadgets. Two weeks ago, he was reportedly diagnosed with a bout of malaria but has since been treated and is in good health now.
“The Lumbuye people know or knew he is gone; when he finally returns it will be a different Lumbuye, speaking different tunes. He was supposed to speak to the president,” the source said.
However, the army, government and most recently the Turkish ambassador roundly deny that Lumbuye is in Uganda. They insist he is still in Turkey. But sources say this is a well-calculated and coordinated ploy to give the state time to arrest all those linked to Lumbuye. A list of eleven informants has been drawn and so far six are already in state custody.
In an earlier telephone interview with URN on August 7, Okello Oryem, the minister of state for Foreign Affairs, confirmed Lumbuye’s deportation, saying he was in the safe hands of Ugandan government authorities and would be presented in courts of law at the appropriate time. He confirmed that Turkey had arrested Lumbuye “in their own way and conduct” before handing him over to Uganda, which he said has its own way of conducting operations.
In fact, he said Ugandans should be happy that Lumbuye was now in the hands of the state and was going to answer for publishing falsehoods. Asked about Lumbuye’s whereabouts during a live interview on the NTV Morning Show on August 16, the minister reiterated that Lumubuye was safe.
“He is alive; people shouldn’t be worried about him. The relevant authorities will at the right time bring him before the courts of law. People should be busy looking for survival, not asking about Lumbuye.” he said.
However, days later while appearing before MPs, Oryem denied that Lumbuye had been extradited. According to sources in the ministry of Foreign Affairs familiar with the extradition, “the minister tactfully played the MPs who failed to pin him about where exactly Lumbuye is.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Jeje Odongo said Uganda was still in talks with Turkey and Interpol regarding the extradition of Lumbuye.
According to sources at Entebbe International Airport, the passenger manifests for August 6, 7 and 8 have now been classified as top secret and no longer accessible to unauthorized people. The physical copies were allegedly taken by the presidential guards, SFC, who took over the airport on August 7 from about 3am to 6am in preparation for the Turkish flight at about 3:45am.
Except for specialised workers, other employees who had reported for early morning duty were ordered to return home. Lumbuye reportedly flew business class in the company of both Ugandan and Turkish security operatives disguised as regular passengers.
“The airport was green with soldiers and the cover of darkness also helped for some snoopy people not to see what exactly was going on. This level of security alertness and takeover is usually done for the arrival of presidents but we all know there was no president arriving that morning,” the source said.
Asked why the state would ‘confiscate’ the passenger manifest, a Foreign Affairs official familiar with the issue, said the state booked and paid for several seats on Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Airlines and KLM so as to disguise Lumbuye’s arrival.
The strategy seemed to have worked, the source said. The National Unity Platform (NUP) MPs and supporters got fooled to believe that Lumbuye had sneaked out of Turkey to the Netherlands where he had been granted asylum. It later turned out this was not true.
AFGHAN EVACUEES DEAL
Although Lumbuye more than once goofed in his social media updates including announcing the sickness and admission in a German hospital of President Yoweri Museveni, some of his predictions have by some coincidence come to pass.
For example, months earlier Lumbuye foretold the attack on Gen Katumba Wamala, who survived a July 1 assassination attempt that claimed the lives of his daughter Brenda Nantongo and driver Haruna Kayondo. Some of his informants were reportedly based in Dubai and the USA – with the one in the USA used by the Ugandan government as a tradeoff to accept to host Afghan evacuees fleeing from the recent Taliban takeover of government.
“After this deal, I can no longer take the United States seriously on their stance against human rights abuse. Uganda basically said you (US) have this guy in your country [USA] and we need him to come and answer questions here. And that is how that informant was brought back here against his will,” said the source.
The source adds that the state has so far managed to apprehend at least six of the 11 so-called informants of Lumbuye and are being detained in safe houses in Kinawataka in Nakawa division.