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Court Questions Rwanda's Honesty in Border Closure Case

Rwanda had last month filed two applications where one is seeking to halt these proceedings until a full bench of the East African Court Judges is constituted due to the alleged complexity of the matter.
The Judges and the parties during the court session that occured via video conferencing.

Audio 4

A panel of three Judges of the East African Court of Justice hearing the case in which a Ugandan lawyer Steven Kalali sued Rwanda for closing its borders has questioned the honesty of Rwanda’s government.  

This came after the Attorney General of Rwanda who was represented by Senior State Attorney Specioza Kabibi sought an adjournment of the case saying that she was not well conversant with its facts, yet her Senior State Attorney Nicholas Ntarugera who is much more familiar with it is away on medical leave.

Kabibi said that she needed extra time to familiarize herself with the facts of the case. But the panel comprising Principal Judge Monica Mugenyi, judges; Audace Ngiye and Dr Charles Nyawello were bitter with her, questioning whether she was being honest with her submissions before the court.

Mugenyi observed that Ntarugera himself last night sent them an email citing a heavy schedule, contrary to Kabibi’s submission that Ntarugera was on medical leave. 

//Cue in: “Final question to… 

Cue out: …case myself”. //    

Rwanda had last month filed two applications, one seeking to halt these proceedings until a full bench of the East African Court Judges is constituted due to the alleged complexity of the matter.      

According to the affidavit of the Acting Head of Legal Services in the Ministry of Justice of Rwanda, Emile Ntwali, they wanted all the Judges of that court to preside over Kalali’s case because the matters that he complained about involve many complex laws, legislations, practices and principles.    

Ntwali further stated in his affidavit that the fact that this case is of immense Public importance, Rwanda would be facing prejudice if they don’t get a full bench of judges to handle this matter. But this notwithstanding, Justice Mugenyi told Kabibi that the said applications were very simple to argue, "so simple that even a first-year student of law could handle them." 

As a result, the Judges told Rwanda’s State Attorney that she is self-defeated as a week's adjournment for her to get acquainted with the facts of the case was unfair in the interest of justice.  

//Cue in; “Why would it… 

Cue out ...ready to proceed?”// 

   

The Judges later granted the adjournment with a warning that if Rwanda is not ready to proceed on Friday, September 18, 2020, they will go ahead and hear the case ex parte. Kalali who filed the case against Rwanda has told URN that he is not happy with their submissions saying that they are just playing games aimed at delaying justice.  

//Cue in; “I'm totally disappointed… 

Cue out…. will be dismissed”. //  

//Cue in; “Ekibadewo olwaleero… 

Cue out…gugwa tudde kukilala”. //  

On February 27 2019, Rwanda closed its Kyanika and Gatuna borders blocking trucks from Uganda to allegedly expedite construction works at the Rwandan side of the Gatuna border. Truck drivers were advised to use the Kagitumba border, through Mirama Hills.  

During the same time, Rwanda advised its citizens against travelling to Uganda claiming that Ugandan authorities were abducting, arbitrarily arresting, jailing, torturing and illegally deporting Rwandans. 

The Kigali administration accused the government of Uganda for allegedly hosting, sponsoring, and facilitating terrorist groups more specifically the Rwanda National Congress-RNC and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda -FDLR that have declared war on Rwanda. As a result, a Ugandan lawyer Steven Kalali sued the government of Rwanda in the East African Court of Justice. 

Kalali through his lawyers Richard Wananda, Joseph Mutyaba and Josephat Mutesasira argued that the actions of Rwanda by closing its border have infringed on the rights and freedoms of its people, and those in neighbouring countries.

He added that its actions have since caused financial loss to hundreds of traders. He thus demanded an order by the courts declaring the border closure illegal as that it contravenes the East African treaty which Rwanda is a signatory.

Mediation talks between Uganda and Rwanda heads of states over the border closure suffered a huge setback early this year due to Covid-19 pandemic.