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Two Rwandan generals arrested over COVID-19 breaches

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Gen Fred Ibingira and Lt Gen (Rtd) Charles Muhire were this month taken into military custody at different times over separate Covid-19-related violations, The New Times can report.

Gen Ibingira is the Rwanda Defence Force Chief of Staff (Reserve Force), while Lt Gen (Rtd) Muhire, himself a former RDF Reserve Force Chief of Staff and Air Force Chief of Staff, retired from active service in 2014.

Sources say Gen Ibingira was arrested on April 7 after it emerged he had attended a traditional wedding (gusaba) ceremony in Butare Cell, Ngoma Sector, Huye District three days earlier.

Both gusaba and wedding receptions are prohibited under the current national coronavirus protocols, with the only permitted wedding traditions being civil and religious marriage ceremonies. The latter two are permissible under strict social distancing conditions.

The New Times learnt that Lt Gen Muhire was apprehended on April 24 at Pegase Resort Inn in Rebero, Kicukiro District in Kigali, where he and 33 others were allegedly having a drink in violation of Covid protocols.

It has since emerged that both men were arrested by the police which subsequently handed them over to Rwanda Defence Force (RDF).

“It is true both General officers are under arrest due to involvement in acts of indiscipline,” RDF spokesperson Lt Col Ronald Rwivanga confirmed on Tuesday, April 27.

He acknowledged the two Generals violated Covid-19 guidelines.

“The institution (RDF) has a code of conduct that requires us to be exemplary,” he said, adding that this applies to both serving and retired officers.

Lt Col Rwivanga said the two Generals were not expected to be charged since this is a breach of discipline subject to internal procedure, adding that competent authorities will determine the length of detention.

RDF, he said, “takes such misconduct seriously because it has implications on command and structure. It is an act of indiscipline.”

In the meantime, it emerged that several other people, including two senior police officers, had also been arrested in connection with the two incidents.

Police Spokesperson CP John Bosco Kabera told this publication Tuesday that dozens of people had been arrested along with Lt Gen (Rtd) Muhire, while investigations that followed the Covid breach in Huye involving Gen Ibingira resulted in the arrest of two senior police commanders in the region. The two are CSP Francis Muheto, Regional Police Commander, South, and SSP Gaton Karagire, District Police Commander, Huye.

The police spokesperson said the two police officers were arrested after investigators established that they were aware of the breach yet did not take any action.

Also arrested in connection with the Huye incident was Fidel Rugomwa, the owner of the venue, Kabera said.

Rugomwa was held for about a week before he was released upon paying a fine, Kabera added.

Equally, all the civilian suspects who were arrested along with Muhire have since been released. Civilians held over Covid-19 violations are normally let go after paying a fine and spending a day or night at a designated venue (usually a stadium, in Kigali) as well as taking a Covid test at their expense.

While Lt Gen Muhire was arrested at the venue at Rebero, according to CP Kabera, Gen Ibingira was taken into custody three days after the unauthorised event in Huye as authorities got wind of the ceremony long after it had ended, prompting investigations that led to his arrest.

Some 70 people had attended the event, he said. “As we’ve always said, there is no one above the law.”

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