At least 44 people who are part of civil parties in the appeal trial involving Paul Rusesabagina and 20 others, all members of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD)/National Liberation Front (FLN) have asked the Court of Appeal to revise the decision for the High Court and allocate them more reparations.
The individuals, all victims of the attacks carried out by FLN between 2018 and 2019, want the Appeals Court to revisit the September 20, 2021 decision by the High Court Chamber for International and Cross-border Crimes, which they say underestimated the compensation they should be given.
The victims of the attacks which took place in the south western part of Rwanda, in the districts of Nyaruguru, Nyamagabe, Rusizi and Nyamasheke, want Rusesabagina and co. to pay more for the pain they were subjected to, including losing loved ones and their means of survival.
On Wednesday, February 16, when the trial resumed, the civil parties prayed to the Court of Appeal to reconsider their submissions and evidence, which they say the previous court disregarded and compel Rusesabagina and his charges to pay more damages for their crimes.
They say the High Court did not put into consideration their plight and psychological trauma, many of them having lost their sources of income such as vehicles or people who were bread winners, permanently impacting their lives.
During the Wednesday proceedings, the President of the Court of Appeal, Francois Régis Rukundakuvuga, asked the victims of the attacks to present evidence that what they say is indeed true and can be proved and several took the stand to state their case.
Françoise Uwambajimana, one of the victims of the attack who at the time resided in Rusizi District, told court that she lost her husband, Dominique Habyarimana in the FLN attacks in Nyungwe Forest National Park in 2018 and life has never been the same again.
“I got a call for a doctor at CHUB Butare that my husband Dominique Habyarimana, who I had been waiting for, had been shot in the attack that happened in Nyungwe. He had gone to meet some people to discuss a supply contract. The doctor said they were taking care of him,”
“I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. We were a young couple working hard to progress and all of a sudden this was happening. I was in Rusizi and I was told that I needed to find a way to get to him as soon as possible, because Nyungwe was out of bounds due to the insecurity at the time,” she said.
Uwambajimana took a long and tedious journey to get to Huye via Karongi and Muhanga district, only to be told by relatives along the way that her husband had succumbed to his wounds.
“When I got there, I was informed that he was shot twice in the stomach, one bullet going through his kidney and the other through his liver. They were trying to conduct an operation to dislodge one of the bullets when he passed on,”
The mother of three told the court that life came to a standstill and didn’t know where to start since her husband was the breadwinner. She was now on her own and widowed. Uwambajimana started working on burial arrangements and ensured that her husband got a dignified rest.
Soon, Uwambajimana was grappling with the family of the deceased husband over property, with some seeking to get a portion of the assets of her husband. Her family was subjected to endless pain due to the untimely passing of her husband.
“My husband was an entrepreneur who would be contracted to supply materials and construct schools. Due to the family struggles I mentioned earlier, I fought through it all on my own and I wanted to make sure that our children are protected and get the education they deserve,”
“My husband always strived to give our children the best life and I couldn’t do it any differently. Today our first born is in S.3 and will soon be sitting the national exams,” Uwambajimana, who is seeking compensation of Rwf100m, told court.
The High Court reduced her damages to Rwf10m but Uwambajimana says it is not even a small portion of what they have had to go through since the killing of her husband in the attacks.
Uwambajimana told court that things haven’t been easy as her life and those of her children were disrupted, including having to move from Rusizi district to Nyamata district, where she lives today, due to pressure from members of her husband’s family, who accused her of selling off family property.
“My husband used to supply different schools and institutions, including health facilities and schools and at the time of his death, many of the places he had supplied had not paid him. I have tried to recover that money in vain,” Uwambajimana said.
She said her husband used to earn at least Rwf4m monthly, which was enough to sustain them and the court should reconsider all these factors to revise the damages she was accorded upwards.
“The compensation we sought was based on what he was earning at the time, also putting into consideration the predicament of his family. In my view, Rwf100m would be realistic based on what he was earning,”
“It is not worth his life but I believe it can help me to secure the lives of his children who did not deserve to lose him at a very young age,” Uwambajimana told the Judge, adding that the Rwf10m she was given by the High Court is not sufficient. Uwambajimana’s lawyer is also requesting Rwf50m for the legal support.
Other victims include Polly Nzeyimana who is seeking compensation of Rwf5m but court allocated him Rwf2m because he could not provide proof of what was damaged on his vehicle during the attack.
Desire Ngirababyeyi, who was a driver with local transport agency Alpha Express, is also among the victims of FLN attacks seeking compensation after he was incapacitated and can’t make ends meet due to disability.
Ngirababyeyi says the bus he was driving from Rusizi to Kigali was caught in an FNL ambush and as he tried to drive away it was shot at several times and it lost control, crashing on the other side of the road.
He was lucky to survive as Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) arrived but he was injured in the crash and sustained bullet wounds, which rendered him disabled and unemployed to date.
“Since I was shot and got incapacitated, I cannot work nor meet my daily needs. Considering the pain I endured, and the fact that I cannot work again, I believe Rwf137,600,000 would be just enough to cushion me for a foreseeable future that the Rwf2.5m which the previous court ordered that I am paid as damages,”
He explained that he was paid at least Rwf250,000 per month for his job as a driver but he has since lost the income and has been subjected to difficulties in life.
So far, about 44 of the plaintiffs in the case are demanding that the court revises the rewards the High Court accorded them but were not equivalent to the pain or loss they endured.
Others include Patrick Rurangwa, who was a driver of Omega Transport Company, plying the Kigali-Rusizi route. On the fateful day in 2019, Rurangwa said he fell into an ambush of FNL as he entered Nyungwe.
He tried to reverse and flee but the militias had approached the coaster and they removed him and passengers. They were held captive and taken along in the forest. In the process of containing the group, they shot and a bullet caught Rurangwa on the arm.
The were robbed of their belongings including money and subjected to physical and psychological torture before they were rescued by RDF.
Rurangwa says he went through rigorous treatment and lost time and resources and should be fairly compensated. Similarly, Daniel Nyaminani, wants court to award him Rwf45 million due to the disability of up to 50% he sustained.
Others include Vianney Bwimba, who is seeking compensation of up Rwf209m due the permanent disability and paralysis he developed after he was shot and injured in the FLN attacks Samuel Ntibaziyaremye demanding Rwf50m.
Justice Rukundakuvuga told the appellants that court will consider evidence different from what was presented in the previous court if it has to revise the compesation upwards.