Family of deceased tycoon Assinapol Rwigara petitions President Kagame

Saturday March 14 2015

By SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, Rwanda Today

The family of fallen Kigali tycoon Assinapol Rwigara has petitioned President Paul Kagame to call for investigations into his death.

The renowned businessman, considered one of Rwanda’s richest persons, was killed on February 4, 2015 in what Rwanda National Police said was an accident but now his family has come out to challenge the police narrative, instead pointing to foul play and possible murder.

In a letter seen by Rwanda Today signed by his four children petitioning the Head of State and copied to different diplomats, European Union delegation and rights watchdogs, the family claims that Mr Rwigara could have been murdered and the accident stage-managed.

Police said that Mr Rwigara had been killed on the evening of February 4 when his car was rammed into by a truck, killing him instantly. But circumstances under which the accident happened and the disappearance of the truck driver left many Rwandans questioning the police version.

RNP said it had launched a search for the missing driver and a day after the incident, through its twitter handle, the police force said that the unidentified man had surrendered himself to police. There were no charges placed however.

The family of the deceased business mogul on Thursday issued a statement debunking the police version of the story, calling on President Kagame to intervene and call for fresh investigations to reveal circumstances under which Mr Rwigara died.

“We the family of the Late Rwigara Assinapol write to you requesting that you commission a detailed investigation in circumstances under which our parent died on the night of February 04, 2014,” the letter, a copy of which was seen by Rwanda Today reads in part.

“We were saddened by the death of our father, which caused a lot of speculation, including reports that he was killed. The death of our parent is shrouded in a lot of controversies as we are going to show below,” it adds.

One of the key questions posed by the aggrieved family is how it could be possible that the deceased, who was on the driver’s side, sustained deep cuts and injuries which led to his death, yet the Mercedes Benz was slightly hit by the truck on the passenger side.

“Some of our family members arrived at the scene shortly after the accident but despite people arriving at the scene immediately, emergence services took long to arrive. When Police arrived, it spent an hour or so towing the vehicle of our father from the road using a breakdown instead of rushing our father, who was still in the car and breathing, to a nearby hospital,” the family says.

According to Aristide Rwigara, one of his sons, when police removed him from the vehicle, it immediately put him in a plastic body bag without any medical personnel confirming whether he was still breathing or not.

“When they got him out of the car, the police was quick to put him in a plastic bag. There was a misunderstanding between family members and police on this issue because we believed that he was still breathing.

“When an ambulance came, police could not allow it to take our father, instead they used the police car to take him. We were stopped from escorting him to wherever they were taking him, which made everything suspicious,” he says.

In their letter, the family also alleges that the police was quick to take Mr Rwigara to the morgue instead of taking him to a nearby hospital to confirm is he was still alive or dead. There was no medical report to confirm that he was dead.

“We spent 45 minutes at the morgue at the police hospital in Kacyiru where we witnessed our parent bleeding profusely from the injuries on his head and there was no doctor attending to him for a long time. Our efforts to convince police to release him so we could take him to King Faisal Hospital were turned down.

“Witness accounts confirm that our father found himself in two road blocks and he managed to flee the car and run but his pursuers chased him and returned him to the car,” the family further alleges.

According to the family of the deceased, to date police has not handed over the belongings of the deceased, including his identification and other work-related documents.

They also claim that police took long to hand over three mobile phones the businessman had, and when they did, they gave the family only two and kept the other one yet they had already told the family that they were three mobile phones.

More so, the family claims the autopsy confirmed that Mr Rwigara died from ghastly cuts inflicted by sharp objects, which clearly showed that he died from non-accident related injuries.

Fear for own safety

The family further claims that Mr Rwigara could have been a victim of his successes because over the years he has had fight off efforts to frustrate his business by unnamed rivals. They further point to his contribution to the liberation struggle and contribution to national developments as reasons the head of state should intervene.

The family also expressed fears for its own safety, appealing to the President Kagame to guarantee them protection and that of their properties.

However the Police Spokesperson CSP Celestin Twahirwa dismissed the allegations of the family, maintaining that the police version of the story is correct.

“We cannot react to every allegation made by the family but what we can say is that police followed the usual procedures. When an accident happens police take a record on the scene and if someone died in the accident, the body is taken to the police hospital where a post-mortem is conducted.

“After that the family can take the body and that is what happened. The file is taken to prosecution and further action is taken. If they have any concern, they should address it with Prosecution and if there is need for further action, it will be taken,” the Police publicist told KFM, on Friday.

He also dismissed claims that their lives are threatened, saying that their security is guaranteed.

Mr Rwigara, who made his name in tobacco trade and real estate, was a celebrated businessman but his business empire has been embattled since 2007.

At the time of his death, he was fighting off directives by the district of Nyarungenge to withdraw a construction permit on one of his mega properties.