By David Himbara
On September 25, 2017, President Paul Kagame’s government auctioned the US$20 million Union Trade Centre (UTC), located at the city of Kigali, Rwanda. UTC was sold for a mere US$8 million at the auction.
UTC’s principal owner, Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa was unmoved, stating that the latest manoeuvre by the Rwanda government was of no consequence. Ayabatwa says he pitied both the auctioneer and the buyer of UTC which he founded in 2006, and turned it into a successful shopping mall that hosted over 80 businesses. As he explained,
Rwanda has sunk to the lowest level of morality where right and wrong have lost their meaning. Our country is like a ship adrift at sea without a compass. Something has gone terribly wrong. How do you sell an asset you do not own? And how do you buy a property that you know does not belong to the seller? This remains incomprehensible.”
Ayabatwa adds that he stopped worrying about UTC in 2013 when it was illegally seized by the government on the fabrication that it was abandoned. Later on the story changed. The same government that had commandeered UTC irrationally claimed it was unable to pay its taxes. But in reality, business was booming, with full occupancy. “When a sane government returns to our country, the essence of right and wrong will be stored. The law will return my company, but even importantly, we will regain our moral compass.”
Senior advisor David Himbara agrees:
“Even if Kagame were to burn down Rwandan law archives, we are in the internet age where digital records are a click away on the computer. The records will show that when government was misleading the public that UTC was abandoned, the company was one of the best run companies in Rwanda. In 2012/2013 for example, UTC was the proud recipient of the Business Excellence Award granted by Rwanda Development Board, endorsed by KPMG Rwanda. In due course the owners of UTC will have the last laugh.”
UTC is neither the first nor the last to be commandeered by a government driven by irrational hatred. As is often said, however, patience is virtue. Reason and morality shall return to Rwanda – it is a matter of time, says Ayabatwa.