11 September 2017

Rwanda: New Twist in Rwigara Case

Photo: NBS TV/Youtube
Diane Rwigara.

The recent police quizzing of former Rwandan presidential hopeful Diane Rwigara has taken a new twist with the authorities questioning why she claims to have been arrested whereas not.

Police on Sept.04 took in Rwigara for questioning in an on-going investigation over alleged tax evasion and forgery. The tax evasion case has been long-running and the forgery case stems from Rwigara’s alleged conduct when she sought to contest in the recent presidential elections.

In order to contest, a candidate required signatures from hundreds of citizens across the country.

Authorities allege that rather than collect genuine signatures, Rwigara made forgeries and that her list also had names of dead people. It is because of this that the electoral authorities barred Rwigara from contesting in August’s presidential vote. Rwigara denies the allegations.

She is, however, also accused of tax evasion together with her family members.

“They are accused of tax evasion and secondly Diane Rwigara is accused of using fake documents while she was gathering signatures for (her) presidential candidacy,” police spokesman Theos Badege told reporters on Sept.01. Police said they had a warrant issued by a prosecutor to question them.

The tax evasion charges stem from a tax dispute that her father, the late Assinapol Rwigara who died in a car accident in February 2015, had with the country’s taxman, Rwanda Revenue Authority.

Rwigara’s father made a fortune as businessmen under the country’s former President Juvénal Habyarimana.  For this, some people perceived him as a Habyarimana collaborator and traitor.

Rwigara fled Rwanda when RPF launched the struggle against Habyarimana and became a supporter of the RPF. He returned to Rwanda when RPF captured power and continued his businesses. He would later fall out with the authorities over tax evasion and run into exile.

Negotiations saw him return but he had not reached a conclusive agreement with the tax body when he died in 2015 in a motor accident. The dispute had started in 2012. RRA never abandoned the matter and pursued it with the family company for which his other daughter Anne Rwigara is the executive director.

Police says it first raided Rwigara’s home as part of the investigation in the cases. The authorities say they conducted a joint operation for the two charges to prevent a situation where the suspects would tamper with evidence on either of the charges.

During the operation, police confiscated documents, phones, computers and cash totaling Rwf 150 million, which was also at the house.

Suspects, who included Rwigara, her sister, Anne Rwigara and mother Adeline Rwigara, were taken to police to where they record statements and were released.

However, after the incident, when a campaign online emerged calling on the authorities to “free Rwigara”, the authorities returned to their home. Sources familiar with the events say the motive was to show the public that the Rwigaras were at their home and not under in police detention. Sources familiar with the case say the family was found at home enjoying a meal of pizza.

Authorities blame the family of faking a kidnap to win international sympathy and attempting to tarnish the government over alleged political persecution.  Rwandan authorities are known for never allowing anyone to use politics to run away from accountability in court and the Rwigara’s are unlikely to be the exception.

Rwigara is said to have used the death of her father, a personal grievance, to launch a national election campaign.  The authorities say although the family was given all evidence relating to the accident that killed Rwigra, including being invited to the scene before it was cleared, the family insisted on telling journalists that the death was stage-managed and had been politically motivated.

The family back then launched an online campaign dubbed Justice for Rwigara. At the heart of the campaign were renowned critics of President Kagame who are in exile like Kayumba Nyamwasa, Theogene Rudasingwa, Gerald Gahima and David Himbara. Following the campaign, Rwigara, a 35-year-old accountant, joined politics.

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