Legal Battle Over Rwigara Family Property Auction in Rwanda: Lawyers Demand 20 Million Rwandan Francs in Damages

On Friday, May 17, 2024, it was revealed in Rwanda that the legal team representing the family of the late Assinapol Rwigara is seeking twenty million Rwandan francs in damages from court bailiff Vedaste Habimana. Lawyers Gatera Gashabana and Pierre Ruberwa claim that Habimana conducted an illegal auction of the Rwigara family property, resulting in ongoing legal battles.

The lawyers representing Adeline Mukangemanyi Rwigara presented evidence of irregularities in the auction process to the court. They argued that the dispute originally arose between COGEBANK and Premier Tobacco Company Ltd (PTC Ltd), a company owned by the Rwigara family, and that the final judgment in the case was not legally sound. Gashabana highlighted that the involvement of Equity Bank, which had acquired COGEBANK, was also irregular.

Gashabana asserted that the auction was invalid because it failed to follow legal procedures, including proper valuation notifications and seizure reports. The family learned about the auction through their legal representatives and contended that Habimana had a malicious intent to unlawfully auction the Rwigara property.

The Rwigara family’s legal team argued that proper valuation and seizure protocols were not followed, and that the notification process for the auction was flawed. They claimed that Habimana’s use of another bailiff to communicate with Gaspard Twajamahoro, a household worker at the Rwigara residence, further violated legal procedures. According to Voice of America, Twajamahoro handed the auction report to Rugwiro Arioste Rwigara, who refused to accept it.

The Rwigara family maintained that the auction was illegitimate because Adeline Rwigara was not in Rwanda at the time, and only one bidder participated, which is against auction regulations. They demanded that the auction be nullified and sought damages for the distress caused by the legal entanglements.

In response, Emmanuel Abijuru, representing Habimana, argued that the transfer of COGEBANK’s responsibilities to Equity Bank was legally binding, and that proper notification procedures were followed. He asserted that the Rwigara family’s objections were unfounded, as the auctioned property was used as collateral in a loan agreement involving Adeline Rwigara.

Abijuru explained that on March 11, 2024, Habimana informed the Rwigara family about the debt repayment deadline, failing which the property would be auctioned. He argued that proper procedures were followed, and that the auction was legitimate despite Adeline Rwigara’s absence from the country.

Frank Karemera, representing Equity Bank, echoed these sentiments, stating that the actions of their bailiff adhered to legal requirements. Both Habimana and Equity Bank’s representatives demanded compensation for the legal costs incurred due to the Rwigara family’s lawsuits.

The court was reminded that the auction in question took place on April 26, 2024, at the Rwigara residence in Kiyovu, Kigali. The property was sold for over 1.116 billion Rwandan francs, intended to cover a 349 million Rwandan franc debt claimed by COGEBANK, dating back to 2014. The Rwigara family has consistently denied this debt, accusing the Rwandan government of attempting to seize their assets to impoverish them.

The judge will deliver a verdict on May 21, 2024.