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Kagame arrests two army generals over flouting #Covid-19 rules

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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.

General Ibingira is the Rwanda Defence Force Chief of Staff (Reserve Force), while Lieutenant General (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 the four-star general 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.

According to Rwanda state newspaper, The New Times, Lt Gen Muhire was apprehended on April 25 at Pegase Resort Inn in Rebero, Kicukiro District in Kigali, where another 33 people were also arrested over breach of #Covid protocols.

The group was reportedly having a drink.

Both the Rwanda National Police and Rwanda Defence Force confirmed the breaches and arrests.

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

He admitted 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 The New Times 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 or report it.

Also arrested in connection with the Huye incident was Fidele 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 and nobody is allowed to flout #Covid-19 preventive measures.”

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