by Arnold Gakuba
The trial on the detention and release of Madame Idamange Iryamugwiza Yvonne began at ten and two minutes (10:02 am) after the team of judges entered the courtroom. The room where this trial is taking place was full of journalists. The trial was held using Skype as a means of fighting against Covid-19. Madam Idamange who was sitting in one of the rooms of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) was requested by the presiding judge to come in front, which was immediately done. This was followed by reading her identification marked with certain errors such as the name of her mother and her cell of residence. These errors were immediately corrected by Idamange when asked if what had just been read to her was correct. She added that she does not remember well her ID card number.
From the outset, Madame Idamange was informed of her six charges, among others
- the creation of chaos within the population,
- devalue the Genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi,
- deliver false information through the media,
- prevent the implementation of the government program,
- beat and hurt and give a cheque without provision.
After reading these accusations, the presiding judge asked Madam Idamange if she accepts the alleged accusations and she denies them upwards. She said she does not agree with her accusations. The public prosecutor’s office took the time to explain each of the accusations. We started with a video that Madam Idamange put on her YouTube titled “we Rwandans are tired of taking inappropriate measures against us”. The public prosecutor’s office says that in this video, Madam Idamange intended to raise the population and urge them to demonstrate against the government. The prosecution has, on several occasions, repeated words qualified as intimidating, for example where Idamange called on Rwandans who are inside or outside the country to demonstrate against the government and that whoever does not do so will have problems.
Regarding the second charge on the devaluation of the genocide against the Tutsi, the prosecution announces that it is not understood how the alleged said that the Coronavirus replaced the genocide. It was also insisted on the fact that Madam Idamange said that Rwanda amassed a lot of currency in the visits of the memorial sites of the genocide and affirms that this act is qualified as denigration of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi.
In her video published on February 15, 2021, the public prosecutor’s office claims that the accused used very heavy words where she said that the Government kills people and added that the President of the Republic is dead and that the country cannot continue to be ruled by a corpse. The prosecution said that these words are terrifying and call upon people to demonstrate. The prosecution added that these words also devalue the personality of the president; while the author of these words knows well that she is lying because the President of the Republic is alive.
Regarding the accusation of blocking the execution of government programs, the public prosecutor’s office says that what happened on February 15, 2021 when the police team came to arrest her, she engaged in a fight with them and even injured one of them.
Regarding the charge of giving a cheque with provision, Madam Idamange did this on November 23, 2018 when she gave Nsabimana Emmanuel a cheque of four hundred thousand Rwandan francs.
Still, trying to elicit the explanation of Madam Idamange’s accusations, the public prosecutor’s office reaffirmed that the fact that the accused herself said that she was making the plea to the population against lockdown and against injustice made to the Rwandans have no basis because she is not their spokesperson and no one has asked her to do so.
Regarding denigrating the signs of the genocide, the prosecution said that the assertion that the bodies of the victims of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi are lined up like bags of sugar in a store and that it was pronounced by someone who knows the genocide very well and who observed it with her eyes; it is an irrevocable criminal offense to devalue the signs of genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi. The prosecution also says that the alleged has spread false information such as asserting that there are people that the Rwandan government killed in different periods as she mentioned in her video and also asserting that the President of the Republic was dead which is also treated as rumors because even though she herself knows that these are lies but also she could not give truthful information about it. The prosecution concludes on this point by affirming that this forced, on February 22, 2021, the police to arrest Ms. Idamange in her residence because the police could not turn a blind eye to it. Considering all these, the prosecution affirms that there are tangible evidences which bring Ms. Idamange to justice and the prosecution suggests giving her a provisional imprisonment of 30 days while the trial is underway. In fact, her imprisonment is the right way to prevent her from continuing her crimes and ensure her safety because if she is released she can escape justice.
Madam Idamange was given the turn to react on her accusations. She began by saying, ‘’ Mr. President, I do not accept everything that is accused against me. I am a Rwandan and I love my country. I have never sowed discord among the population. I was uplifted by people’s grief during the lockdown, the time when the lower class of the Rwandan population was stricken with hunger. I spoke with a lot of them, I fed some – not everyone because I couldn’t and I said it so that this problem could be resolved. ” ‘People had no food,’ ‘she added. “There were children to whom the FARG paid the scholarships which were received late and these ones lived miserably. I did it because, I myself have been through this life, ’what she called’ ’advocacy to the people’.
Madam Idamange also returned to the problem of people whose houses are demolished and are not expropriated and they live in schools and others come back to pitch tents in their plots because they have nowhere to go. She gave other examples that she sees as injustice. As an example, there is a heartfelt person who gave a FUSO (sort of vehicle), full of food in Kigarama sector so that people could have food in the first lockdown but no one knows the destination of these aids and the Executive Secretary of this sector has not been prosecuted and punished for it. “I announced it on my channel so that every authority would know it and it would be solved.”
Regarding the offense of beating and injuring, Madam Idamange told the court that what the prosecution says that the police entered her residence legally is false. She said ’when announcingg them on You tube, I said clearly where I live and put my phone number too. I never received any summons from RIB to respond to. She claims that she saw a publication in the Journal “Igihe.com” announcing that she posted a video and committed suicide. One afternoon, ‘’ I saw people climbing up the walls of my fence, the others pushing the door. They were eight. They did not show us their service cards and were in civilian clothes. So we called them “evildoers.” She says the alarm bells were raised because even these people had come on motorcycles. She said she had never seen RIB personnel come on motorcycles. She adds that beating and hurting is not possible because one of those people saying he was hurt by her is not true. He could have been injured while climbing the wall. She adds ‘’ there were dogs in my house. We could untie these dogs to eat these people. She says people in uniforms came after her neighbor called RIB. She said ‘’ they told us to come down and I got scared. They first took our phones and held me in handcuffs. It was eight o’clock (8:00) in the evening and she did not receive any paper authorizing the search, “she said.
“The search was completed at 2:00 am and all papers were loaded. I was only given back two documents, ’’ she said. When she asked for the arrest certificate, one of the police officers told her “jya imbere adui” to say “go enemy”. She claims that she ended up at the RIB station in Remera and just spent two weeks in handcuffs and they didn’t agree to take care of herself because she was in a menstrual cycle. “It was only a few days ago that I was released from the handcuffs when visited by the human rights commission,” she said. “Don’t you understand this injustice done against me,” she asks the presiding judge.
About denigrating the signs of genocide, Madam Idamange told the court that she cannot make this mistake because she herself is the survivor of genocide. “I ask that our people be buried because in our culture people are buried, they are not exposed. I do not belittle the genocide. I even fight against anyone who does, “she said.
Madam Idamange also talks about the offense of giving a cheque without money. She says ’I gave this cheque in 2018 along with a certificate showing the date Emmanuel Nsabimana should withdraw his four hundred thousand, how does it become an offense in 2021, she asked. ’I didn’t run away and even RIB didn’t look for me and I wasn’t found. Why does this charge come in these circumstances related to the lawsuits that began on February 22, 2021? ’She asks. In the meantime, the one who received a cheque without money would have filed a lawsuit against RIB in May 2020 but to that Madam Idamange asks herself the question of why throughout this period she was not questioned by RIB to ask her about this offense. During the trial, Ms. Idamange’s lawyers said their client is tired and need to sit down and the court immediately accepts this request.
Madam Idamange’s lawyers spent a lot of time on the fact that she was arrested without the police showing her service cards or arrest papers. For this, they ask that their client be released. They went on to say that what happened on February 15, 2021 at Madam Idamange’s residence is considered to be attacked by unknown people, which justifies her arrest being unlawful. They were in civilian clothes and there are pictures showing how these people climbed the walls of the fence.
Based on legal provisions, they claim that Madam Idamange was arrested before she was called by the police. When the called party has not arrived, legal provisions demand that she be brought in by force. “She was not called and she refused to come,” her lawyers say. They add that her residence was searched illegally. Normally, the search is carried out between eight in the morning (8:00 am) and six in the evening according to the legal provisions but at Idamange it is finished at two am (2:00) in the morning. This is accepted only when the suspected person is caught breaking a crime, which is not the case with Idamange. Lawyers for the accused also say that according to legal provisions, the search is carried out when the police are not with the local authorities. On the day of the search of Madam Idamange’s residence, only “Mutwarasibo” (one of the security authorities at cell level) while in the legal administrative hierarchy this body is not recognized. However, this was refuted by the prosecution who read a document written in French saying that during the search, the local authority could be delegated even if this was refused by the lawyers because they do not understand how the Executive Secretary of Kimironko sector did not involve the authorities of the cell and umudugudu (administrative body lower than the cell) and appealed to Mutwarasibo knowing full well that he does not appear anywhere in the administrative hierarchy.
Regarding the fact that Madam Idamange took pity on the hungry people and that she decided to advocate for them, the prosecution again took the floor and affirms that this is forged because she is not in charge of this function and that the government participated in actions to help the population in difficult periods of lockdown. The prosecution further asserts that the offense is not legally illegitimate until after seven years in Rwandan law. Thus, the offense of giving a cheque without money committed between 2018 and 2020 shows that the illegality of the offense has not yet been expired.
Madam Idamange was once again given the floor and said that all her accusations are met with what she called “lack of coordination” on the part of the public prosecutor’s office. “We started with four charges and I explained them and they removed some of them. What I said is in Kinyarwanda. Where are the worries of even explaining? You yourself said that there is no need for an interpreter to explain what I said, ” here she is addressing to the prosecution. She also says she does not understand how her safety should be ensured while she is in prison while the country has all the means to ensure her safety being at home looking after her children who are still young.
To conclude, Madam Idamange returned to Minister Bamporiki Eduard saying that he had transferred his ministry to her home, which sparked whispers in the courtroom about that, he had come to tell her that if she did not shut up, she was going to suffer enormous consequences on her life. Regarding the fact that she was manipulated by some opposition people living abroad, or those who have been called ‘ibigarasha’ (meaning that which is worthless), Madam Idamange said that this is not true. So far, there has been no trace of what RIB has searched for and even in her phone; which is related to this. She ended by asking to be released and go see her children because what is being done to her is torture. The declaration on the detention and / or release will be Tuesday March 9, 2021 at 4:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m.) at Gasabo Courtroom.