President Paul Kagame has weighed in on the assault case involving businessman Dr Francis Habamugisha of Goodrich TV who is accused of beating an employee in public in a widely circulated video published on Twitter last week.
The video which caused quite a storm on social media shows Habumugisha slapping a staff member, Diane Kamali, during a meeting after she allegedly captured a video as the businessman was verbally abusing another employee.
The footage shows Habumugisha, who has previously been accused of assault by different people, walking to Kamali, slapping her before taking away the phone.
The victim took to Twitter to share the video and claimed that despite reporting the case to Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), no action had been taken against Habumugisha who occasionally boasts of having friends in high places who protect him.
“I was publicly battered by a man called Dr Francis (GoodRich TV) on 16.07.2019. I informed RIB, it has been 2 months and no action has been taken. Does being rich and knowing people in powerful circles make one immune from prosecution?” Kamali tweeted the video on September 5, tagging Office of the President, President Kagame and the First Lady’s account.
The video infuriated social media users with many calling for the arrest of the businessman who has in the past been accused of beating up employees for asking for their payment as well as forcing female employees to ‘entertain’ his guests.
“We shall follow it up and get to know what exactly happened and take necessary action,” President Kagame tweeted at 2:11am on Wednesday, adding that he was surprised that RIB was informed on the case and they did not do what was required.
The Prosecutor General Jean Bosco Mutangana also reacted and said that the suspect’s file has been handed over to Prosecution and due processes are taking place.
“This case is being handled by the Prosecution and the suspect is detained as investigations continue. A due process of law will follow and suspect will be presented to court with respect to criminal procedures,” Mutangana tweeted.
The Spokesperson of RIB, Modeste Mbabazi, told KT Press that Habumugisha’s file was handed over to prosecution, hence RIB’s part was done, but declined to comment on why the investigations delayed, pointing out that RIB cannot comment on a case that is already in the Prosecutor’s hands.
In a separate tweet, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General Johnston Busingye apologised to Kamali for the delay and having to remind authorities via Twitter, but added that RIB would take immediate action.
“I am happy RIB immediately reassured you that the case is very much active and justice will be done. No one is/can be/should be above the law in our country, not [through] wealth, connections etc,” Busingye tweeted, giving Kamali reassurances.
According to Kamali, Habumugisha slapped her and took away her phone after she filmed a scene in a meeting during which one of the girls was accusing the heads of Goodrich TV, including Habumigisha himself, of misconduct.
“When he noticed that I was filming, he came over and slapped me and took my phone while abusing me with all sorts of profanities,” Kamali explained.
The Prosecutor General Mutangana said that Habumugisha is likely to be charged with aggravated assault and publicly assaulting another person, causing her shame and humiliation.
Article 121 of Law Nº68/2018 of 30/08/2018 determining offences and penalties in general on intentional assault or battery says that “any person who, wilfully, injures, beats or commits any serious violence against another person, commits an offence.”
“Upon conviction, he/she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than three (3) years and not more than five (5) years and a fine of not less than five hundred thousand Rwandan francs (FRW 500,000) and not more than one million Rwandan francs (FRW 1,000,000).”
The Spokesperson of the National Public Prosecution Authority, Faustin Nkusi told KT Press that the case is still in the preliminary stages of preparation but the charges may also include publicly insulting a person and damage of property considering that the victim’s phone was damaged.
“We are still in the preparatory stage but the charges will be determined when we go to schedule the case for hearing but we can assure the public that Prosecution is handling this case and justice will be served,” Nkusi said.
In March 2015, Rwanda Media Commission (RMC) fined Habumugisha after he was found guilty of assaulting two journalists and damaging their equipment. He was also ordered to compensate the two journalists – who had gone to ask him about allegations that he was abusing female journalists.
The two journalists Obed Ndahayo who was then working for Amazing Grace Radio and John Ndabarasa of Sana Radio had gone to Goodrich TV to ask Habumugisha about allegations by three female employers that alleged that he was forcing them to ‘entertain’ his guests yet they were hired as journalists.
Jeannne d’Arc Gikundiro, Marie Louise Yamuragiye and Honorine Uzamukunda said that they had been hired as journalists but very often forced them to ‘massage’ his male guests yet that was not part of their assignment.
When they refused to comply, he summarily dismissed them without pay, which prompted the trio to bring to light their ordeal.
When the two journalists tried to investigate the story, Habumugisha reacted angrily, locked them up in a room and beat them up before damaging their equipment.