Former Rwandan MP Barikana Eugene Arrested for Illegal Weapons Possession

On Monday, May 13, 2024, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) announced via their X account the arrest of Barikana Eugene, a former Member of Parliament in Rwanda. Barikana is being investigated for illegal possession of firearms, which he claims were from his time with the military and he forgot to return.

Barikana is currently detained at the RIB station in Remera while investigations continue to determine how he acquired the weapons and why he possessed them illegally. RIB emphasized that firearm ownership is strictly regulated by law in Rwanda, and anyone violating these regulations is committing a crime and subject to legal consequences.

Following this announcement, Munyakazi Sadate, a supporter of Paul Kagame’s government, expressed his discontent on X. He questioned why Barikana, who served the country, was not given the same opportunity for advice and guidance as opposition activists like Cyuma, Agnes, Rachid, and Karasira Aimable, among others. He argued that Barikana should have been advised to return the weapons rather than being arrested immediately. Sadate emphasized the need to appreciate the contributions of individuals like Barikana rather than dismissing them without due consideration.

RIB spokesperson Dr. Thierry Murangira, through his X account, stated that Barikana had resigned from his parliamentary position before his arrest. Barikana, aged 57, has been a significant figure in the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) and served as an MP for over a decade. His previous roles included Chief of Staff for the Prime Minister, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Prefect of the former Kibungo Prefecture, and Sous-Préfet of Kanazi in Bugesera region.

Despite the current charges, Barikana has been accused by various individuals of human rights violations, including atrocities against Hutu civilians in Bugesera and Kibungo during his tenure in those regions. Rwanda is preparing for parliamentary elections in July 2024, along with the presidential election. Barikana is not listed among the FPR-Inkotanyi candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

On Tuesday, May 14, 2024, the pro-government newspaper reported that Barikana was found with a grenade and an AK-47 magazine. Reports surfaced on Friday, May 17, 2024, that Barikana’s recently relocated house in the Kagarama neighborhood of Kigali was thoroughly searched by security forces.

Political analysts suggest that Barikana’s arrest might not be solely due to the firearm charges. They suspect a deeper motive, as it is unusual for someone of Barikana’s status to be detained for such an offense. Some speculate that the firearm charge is a pretext for his arrest.

Social media buzzes with claims that Barikana was reported for possessing the weapons by individuals who helped him move from his previous residence in Nyamirambo to his new house in Kagarama. It is believed that the discovery of the weapons was used as an excuse for his arrest, masking other underlying reasons.

A source mentioned that Barikana had been facing financial difficulties and was unhappy about not being included on the RPF candidate list for the July 2024 elections. This dissatisfaction reportedly reached the upper echelons of the RPF. There is a growing discontent among veteran Tutsi members of the RPF, who feel sidelined in favor of younger Hutu members perceived as opportunists and only loyal to President Kagame, but not to RPF’s original values.

Barikana, a Tutsi from the Bagogwe subgroup, played a pivotal role in the early RPF days, recruiting fighters during the struggle in the Congo’s Kivu regions. His efforts contributed significantly to the RPF’s strength in the early 1990s.

As of this writing, the date for Barikana’s court appearance has not been set.