13 February 2017

Rwanda: How Senior Public Officials Escape Anti-Graft Dragnet in Rwanda

Senior Rwandan government officials manning corruption networks have been devising "sophisticated means" to conceal their identities. This was revealed by the country's Deputy Prosecutor General Agnes Mukagashugi last week, while explaining why most of those convicted of corruption whose names are published are low-level officials, farmers and motorists.

"It is not that top officials are above the law; it is difficult to get evidence that can incriminate them because unlike junior officials and motorists, these officials use sophisticated means that are hard to detect," she said.

Rwanda's fight against graft has in recent years been tainted by a failure to hold high-ranking officials to account, while low ranking public servants and citizens are heavily penalised.

In a separate event, President Paul Kagame last week warned local leaders against engaging in corruption. President Kagame said that it is unacceptable for leaders to steal public funds for personal benefit.

"Silence in the face of corruption has consequences. Not being corrupt is not enough; you must not cover up graft. We should all fight against corruption; you cannot cover it up and expect others to hold those involved accountable," the Rwandan leader warned.

Chief Justice Sam Rugege announced that motorcyclists and drivers topped the list of those found guilty of corruption in the period ranging from February 2016 to-date. In that period, 324 corruption cases were prosecuted, leading to about 120 convictions.

He said that in order to catch top officials involved in stealing millions of francs, patience is needed to gather evidence against them.

"In some countries, it takes years and years of gathering evidence to catch one top official. This is because investigators understand that once they prematurely begin legal proceedings with scanty evidence they may find," he said.

"My office is not charged with investigating but prosecuting; therefore as a Rwandan, I urge the investigators to carry out quality investigations even if it takes a long time," said Justice Rugege.

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