9 November 2017

Rwanda: Former Minister Imena's Trial Begins in Substance

Photo: New Times
Former State Minister for Mining, Evode Imena.

The Nyarugenge Intermediate Court on Wednesday heard in substance the case involving the former State Minister for Mining, Evode Imena, who was released on bail back in February.

During the hearing, prosecutors claimed the former cabinet member committed nepotism and favouritism in awarding a mining concession in Nyaruguru District.

Imena denies all charges against him.

Imena was in court along with his accuser Straton Ndamage, the director of Nyaruguru Mining Company Ltd, who filed a civil action against the former state minister arguing that his company lost a lot of money because of a decision taken by the former while still a minister.

The plaintiff told court that Imena should refund him a total of Rwf686,628,609 because of the loss he says he incurred over a decision allegedly made by Imena.

Both Ndamage and prosecution accused Imena of illegally issuing a mining concession to a certain firm identified as Mwashamba Mining Company despite an outstanding permit for the same area acquired by Nyaruguru Mining Company Ltd.

According to prosecution, Imena committed the offence back in 2013, just months after he was appointed minister.

Presenting his defence, Imena began by reminding court that he was in office between February 26, 2013 and October 4, 2016, arguing that some letters used to pin him are irrelevant because they were written before he even got into office.

He added that before he assumed office, the former Minister for Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi, had already revoked the concession by Ndamage's company, a claim that was not disputed by the latter.

Imena added that during his time at the Ministry of Natural Resources, he reported to the ministers who he said were aware of the case in question, citing Stanislas Kamanzi and his successor Vincent Biruta.

He says that when he assumed office, Ndamage somehow managed to convince the mining commission at the ministry to re-examine his concession.

"He thought I would not be aware of the case since I was new, but I had already briefed, hence I upheld the decision that had earlier been taken," he said.

Imena's lawyer told court that there was no evidence that his client made the decision based on favouritism, friendship, hatred or nepotism, adding that they did not show any relationship between his client and any of the two companies in contention.

He requested the court to absolve his client of any criminal liability and rule that no compensation should be given to the plaintiff, whom he said was acting outside the law.

The presiding judge adjourned the hearing to December 7.

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