Claude Rwaganje says the family is desperate for information about his missing 21-year-old nephew, Samuel Mugisha. “When someone is missing, you don’t know if they’re alive or not. That hope stays in you and it’s very painful,” Rwaganje said. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

More than two months after Samuel Mugisha disappeared from his North Deering apartment, his family is growing desperate for information.

“What can you say when you have a missing person and you don’t know where they are and if they’re dead or alive?” said Mugisha’s uncle, Claude Rwaganje. “It’s hard. When you lose someone you go over it and it’s painful but then you go on. When someone is missing, you don’t know if they’re alive or not. That hope stays in you and it’s very painful.”

Samuel Mugisha, 21, of Portland, has been missing since Nov. 4 Photo courtesy of Mugisha family

The 21-year-old Mugisha was last seen at his Auburn Street apartment around 8 a.m. on Nov. 4. Police have said they don’t know why he left that day or where he was headed.

Portland Police Maj. Robert Martin said Thursday that the investigation into Mugisha’s disappearance remains active but police do not have any additional information to release.

The police department currently has several active missing persons reports that range from a few days to weeks old, as well as a half-dozen long-term missing person cases that date to 2013 or earlier, but Martin said it is very uncommon for a person to be missing as long as Mugisha.

“Most missing adults are located within a few days to a week,” Martin said in an email. “We have had some missing for longer times, but they usually are using their credit cards or accessing savings accounts.”


In the initial phases of an investigation, police try to determine where the person was last seen and work from there, but it becomes more difficult when the exact time and location where a person went missing can’t be determined and as more time passes, Martin said.

Mugisha, who lived with a cousin at the Auburn Street apartment, had recently been staying with an aunt and uncle in Westbrook after he was discharged from Spring Harbor Hospital about a week before his disappearance.

His family has said he suffers from a mental illness that sometimes renders him non-verbal, and causes him to forget where he is and faint, and that he had recently experienced an episode of mental challenges that prompted the hospitalization.

Rwaganje said Thursday that he believed because his nephew had been discharged from the hospital that meant he was doing better. He said Mugisha had a lot of good things going on in his life, having recently graduated from college and bought a new car. And he was working full-time as a caretaker for the disabled and people with intellectual disabilities.

“He was doing really good,” Rwaganje said.

Mugisha’s cousin Heritier Itangishaka, who lived with Mugisha on Auburn Street and was the last person to see him, said he was quiet and unlike himself the night before he disappeared.


“He was still recovering so any kind of mood or any reaction was not his actual mood,” Itangishaka said.

Still, he said he was surprised and confused by his cousin’s disappearance. “I didn’t expect any of this,” he said.

Mugisha came to the United States in 2014 from Nairobi, Kenya, and is part of the tight-knit Congolese Banyamulenge community in the Portland area. He attended Westbrook High School and played on the soccer team.

His parents live in Kenya, Rwaganje said, and they have been distraught by his disappearance. Rwaganje has been the main point of contact with police, but said he, unfortunately, hasn’t had much information to share lately.

A flyer for 21-year-old Samuel Mugisha, who has been missing since Nov. 4, on Main Street in Westbrook. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“They’re anxious to know where their son is,” said Rwaganje, who said he spoke with Mugisha’s father Thursday and had to inform him there was no new information to report.

Mugisha’s family members in Portland and members of the Banyamulenge community have been meeting regularly to discuss his case and keep each other up-to-date on any developments.


Rwaganje said police have been helpful and responsive, but “nothing has really happened.”

“Everything they identify they forward, but it’s taking some time,” he said.

Mugisha’s family believes he left his apartment on foot, but they don’t know if he might have been picked up by someone in a car. Rwaganje said that has made it difficult to narrow down where he might be.

He said his nephew had a cellphone with him, but it appears to be off and attempts to track data from the phone have been unsuccessful. There has been no movement in his bank account.

On Nov. 11, Mugisha was reportedly spotted hitchhiking in Rockland, but family members later said that based on a photograph and surveillance video footage they saw, they don’t believe it was him.



The last few weeks have been difficult for Mugisha’s family, who remember him as a lively, talkative young man who was beloved by the community. Recently, when Rwaganje, his wife and their children sat down to say prayers around New Year’s Day, Rwaganje was touched by a request from his 14-year-old son, who asked that they remember to pray for Mugisha.

Family members have been searching for 21-year-old Samuel Mugisha since Nov. 4. From left, his cousin Heritier Itangishaka, and his uncles Gapapa Nsengumuremyi, Claude Rwaganje and Jean-Paul Ruhosha. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“It was kind of a wake-up call and also sad to hear this is on everybody’s mind, including children,” Rwaganje said. “Sometimes we think they’re not paying attention because they’re teenagers, but I was really touched to hear him say, ‘Let’s pray for him and maybe he can come back.'”

In his office on Lancaster Street in Portland, where Rwaganje works as the executive director of the non-profit ProsperityME, a missing person flyer hangs in the reception area, imploring the public to be on the lookout and report any information about Mugisha’s whereabouts.

Anyone with information can call the Portland Police Department at 207-874-8479 or the Westbrook Police Department at 207-854-0644.

“We just hope that wherever he is and whoever is reading the newspaper and sees him can call us because we still need Sam back and we miss him a lot and we hope he comes back alive,” Rwaganje said.

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