On August 24, 2015, the Rwanda government pronounced Union Trade Center (UTC) a tax defaulter. The same government seized the $20 million shopping mall two years ago, alleging that it was “abandoned.” Prior to the illegal takeover UTC was a highly successful operation since 2006, hosting 81 businesses including top companies such as MTN Rwanda, Ethiopian Airlines, and Nakumatt. Over 400 Rwandans earned a living in these businesses. UTC did not owe a cent to tax authorities.
For David Himbara, senior adviser to UTC founder Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, the latest development defeats logic. “The government expropriated UTC in 2013 claiming it was abandoned because its main shareholder resided outside Rwanda. This was of course a bizarre and illegal act. Owners of almost all large Rwanda-based companies live outside the country. For government to now denounce UTC as tax dodger is extraordinary. It is like a CEO declaring himself incompetent.”
Rwandan authorities consistently explain to the world that they are believers in enterprise and that they are building a private sector that will create prosperity. The government talks of its determination to end dependence on foreign aid by promoting private investments. So why harass and undermine companies such as UTC? Are official actions not contradicting stated intentions?
Ayabatwa describes this new twist as most unfortunate for Rwanda. “Here is a company seized from its owners when it was a productive corporate citizen fulfilling all its obligations. I neither understood UTC confiscation, nor the declaring of it delinquent by those who seized it without compensation. I cannot think of a worse deterrent to development than what we are witnessing inRwanda.”
Ayabatwa is a native Rwandan and successful Pan African businessman with interests throughout the continent and beyond. His Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa Foundation secures internships for young people to launch their professional careers.
For more information about Ayabatwa, his businesses and his philanthropy, go to: http://tribertrujugiro.com/
SOURCE: Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, UTC founder