Legal Dispute Surrounds Auction of Rwigara Family Property in Rwanda

In Kigali, Rwanda, at the Nyarugenge District Court, attorneys Gatera Gashabana and Pierre Ruberwa have called into question the legality of a recent auction involving the estate of the late Assinapol Rwigara. The lawyers, representing the interests of Adeline Mukangemanyi Rwigara, widow of the deceased, are pushing to have the auction declared null and void, claiming it was conducted secretly and thus invalid under Rwandan law.

The contested property, a partially completed four-story building located in the affluent area of Kiyovu in Kigali, was auctioned for 1.116 billion Rwandan francs. The buyer, Sun Belt Textiles Rwanda Ltd, acquired the building following a legal decision against the Rwigara Premier Tobacco Company Ltd (PTC Ltd), which lost a commercial lawsuit to the former COGEBANK, now owned by Equity Bank. This bank claimed the Rwigara estate owed them approximately 349 million Rwandan francs.

During the auction proceedings, the court heard allegations from Gashabana and Ruberwa that the auction was improperly advertised and conducted. They argued that Vedaste Habimana, the court officer in charge of the auction, failed to halt the sale despite their protests, citing its execution as unlawful. Moreover, they highlighted the absence of an appraisal document, which they contend should have been submitted to the company’s management rather than found “by chance on the street.”

Henri Pierre Munyangabe, representing Habimana, countered by stating that the auction had concluded legally on April 26, 2023, at precisely 3:46 AM. He argued that any objections to the auction’s validity should have been lodged within 15 days of its occurrence, suggesting the Rwigara family’s current legal action was untimely.

On the other side, Frank Karemera, attorney for Equity Bank, maintained that stopping an auction and removing it from record simultaneously was not permissible under the law. He asserted that since the Rwigaras had initiated their complaint after the auction was complete, invalidating it was no longer an option.

As the dispute continues to unfold, the judge announced that a decision would be made next week after considering all arguments. The case has attracted significant attention, spotlighting ongoing tensions between the Rwandan government and the Rwigara family, who have previously accused state authorities of targeting their assets unjustly. This legal battle underscores the complex interplay of business, politics, and law in Rwanda, with potential implications for the country’s judicial integrity and governance practices.