Kagame’s Chief Justice Sam Rugege Leads A Horrible Life

By David Himbara

The chief justice of any nation plays at least three roles. The chief justice’s most visible and widely known duty is presiding over the Supreme Court. The chief justice provides intellectual and political leadership in interpreting a country’s constitutional system. The chief justice is also the administrative head of the judiciary.

Rwanda’s Chief Justice is a mere figurehead appointed and dismissed by a head of state that is constitutionally above the law.


Rugege is a chief justice in a country led by a head of state who is above the law. The evidence for my statement is Article 114 ”Exemption from prosecution for a former president of the Republic” which reads:

”A former President of the Republic cannot be prosecuted for treason or serious and deliberate violation of the Constitution when no legal proceedings in respect of that offense were brought against him or her while in office.”

In Kagame’s Rwanda, the chief justice is appointed and dismissed by the head of state. The head of state appoints and dismisses all senior judicial officers including:

”a. the President, Vice President and Judges of the Supreme Court; b. the President and Vice President of the High Court, and the President and Vice President of the Commercial High Court; c. the Prosecutor General and the Deputy Prosecutor General…[and] Secretary-General of the Supreme Court.”

Sam Rugege is odd in Kagame’s Rwanda — Rugege at one time fled a dictatorship in his homeland, Uganda, only to later serve another dictatorship across the border.


Sam Rugege sat on the bench of the Supreme Court of Rwanda twice. He was Vice President since 2004. He became Chief Justice in 2012. He is a Ugandan scholar educated at Makerere University in Uganda and then Yale.

The irony of ironies is that at one point in Sam Rugege’s life, he fled his homeland, Uganda, from a brutal dictatorship. Rugege fled the terror of Idi Amin’s dictatorship in the 1970s. Fast forward to 2012. Rugege crossed the border to become Chief Justice in another dictatorship. I wonder how Rugege justifies being Kagame’s Chief Justice — Rwanda’s iron-fisted ruler stands accused of far worse atrocities in both Rwanda and DR Congo. Rwanda’s Chief Justice must lead a sad life.