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Rwandan Minister Struggles To Explain Alleged Presidential Planes

Minister Tharcisse Karugarama

Minister Tharcisse Karugarama

Kigali: In what seemed like he had been caught off-guard, Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama contradicted the official government position on the alleged $100million presidential planes packed in South Africa, RNA reports.

In February, the South African investigative newspaper The Sunday Times claimed Rwanda owns two $50million-each executive planes. The paper said the Government owns the planes through a fronted company Repli Investments 29 (Pty) Ltd. Presidential aide Prof. Manasseh Nshuti and reclusive businessman Hatari Sekoko are the ones behind the planes.

A week later, Government released a statement dismissing the allegations. In subsequent media appearances and statements, it was made clear that the planes do exist but are not owned by government. Government admits the planes are privately owned by Rwandan nationals, but only used for hire to transport the President and top officials.

However, appearing on BBC Kinyarwanda service, Minister Karugarama did not seem to be aware of the official government position, saying instead that those planes to “do not exist”.

“I do not have expertise in planes. What I can tell you is that [South Africa] cannot have planes contrary to the law…cannot have unknown property…I think those talking about the planes should be the ones giving details…,” said Karugarama.

In response to a follow up question as to whether the planes really exist, Mr. Karugarama paused for some seconds, then said guardedly: “I am not involved with the management of planes, I am the Minister of Justice. With the planes domain, why can’t you ask those responsible…You could as well ask those managing airports.”

The Minister said “up to this point”, he has no knowledge of the existence of any such planes. “I only know planes called RwandAir Express,” he maintained in reference to the national carrier.

Sounding like he was not privy to the details of the controversial planes which have been published widely outside Rwanda and by local tabloid UMUSESO and RNA, or even the Government position, Mr. Karugarama asked “who published that?…the BBC…”

“Me as Minister of Justice, I don’t know those planes,” he said. He added that whoever has evidence of illegal ownership of any planes should avail him with the information so he could prosecute any suspects.

However, the Minister pointed out that the person bringing the evidence should clearly indicate the illegality behind that ownership. “…but you cannot just find me walking and ask me about planes…if you had instead asked me about the plane that brought me here,” he said amid laughter.

The interview with the Minister was recorded this week when he was in London, but was only aired Thursday.



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