November 7 last year, the global audience was treated to a rare tirade over a court case happening in a small central African country, Rwanda. The case was that of the co-accused Col Tom Byabagamba and Brig Gen (Rtd) Frank Rusagara.
That tirade was an article published in The Telegraph, in the UK. Within hours, the story was trending. It had been written by Veronica Shandari, one of the daughters of Rusagara. Her angry outburst, which she had done several times before, was strategically planned to prepare the world for the sentencing of her father and maternal uncle Byabagamba that was due November 15.
Based in the UK, Shandari laid bare what seemed clearly the position of how the whole extended family views President Paul Kagame. Titled “Rwanda – where a private conversation can get you jailed“, the Telegraph opinion article’s headline said it all. The text carried some of harshest comments anyone has said about the President so far.
Byabagamba and Rusagara were not the usual rank-and-file soldiers. There was a time in Rwanda when this family with their siblings and wives, were the custodians of Rwanda’s and President Kagame’s most guarded secrets. Not any more. The two men are going to be in jail for a long time.
Together with her sister Elizabeth, Shandari’s angry fight back is just one of a string of kids whose parents once controlled the highest levers of power in Rwanda, but have suddenly fallen from grace. As their fathers towered over Rwandans, these kids went to the best possible schools in Europe and North America.
By virtual of their Dad’s status, these kids know each other, and have VERY LIKELY, had direct engagement with the First Family.
Around July 7 or 8, this year, another of the System’s kids went public. This time, it was a son, Mucyo Apollo, one of the children of embattled former Prime Minister Dr Pierre Damien Habumuremyi. He is currently in jail awaiting trial over a host of allegations, said to be related to the collapse of a university he founded about 5 years ago.
On Instagram using @_uplow, Mucyo addressed President Kagame directly, even tagging him, demanding the Dad be freed. Writing from North America, Mucyo said that the cases being mentioned publicly are not the reason his Dad is in jail. Mucyo’s post gave rare insights into his father’s plight. He left it all out there for the very lively conspiracy theorists to explain what was “really” happening.
Within days, he made more posts, including one where he reported that his mother had pleaded with him to stop the social media campaign. It insinuated, that the mother who is in Rwanda, may have been warned to reign in her son.
Mucyo did not stop at social media posts. He went after local media that carried stories said to be “investigations” inside Dr Habumuremyi’s charges. For one media house, Mucyo called its stories “lies”, “reckless” and “unprofessional”. He went on to explain how his father spent the family’s fortune on establishing “our university”, while at the same time other forces made sure it never saw the light.
As the social media excitement for Mucyo’s bravado was still gripping the nation, another of the System’s kids struck; and it was an unlikely candidate.
It was the Lynn University-educated daughter of powerful businessman Alfred Nkubili. Using her existing Twitter account @k_maryz, the young woman was not on social media to share photos of a holiday on that day July 15. Her father was in trouble, but like every child; Daddy is right and everyone else can go to hell.
Three weeks earlier, rumours had been circulating that the businessman Nkubili was missing. Like many similar cases, local journalists couldnt get official confirmation. A few days later, on July 8, media was in overdrive, flooded with headlines of the arrest of nine businesspeople including Nkubili. The official explanation by the Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB) was that the suspects had caused the state a loss of Rwf 9billion as a result of supplying poor quality fertilizers.
Until his arrest, Nkubili, through his company “Entreprise Nkubili Alfred & Sons”, known by the acronym ENAS, had essentially been the godfather in the supply chain for agricultural inputs to government for past more than 20 years. People who know Nkubili affirm he is super moneyed, cash he has gotten from being THE contractor whenever the agriculture ministry needed anything. This ministry has deep pockets, with highly lucrative contracts.
Not many inside Rwanda know where Nkubili got all that influence over the agriculture sector. Those who may know, may never be willing to share with the ordinary public. Nkubili’s arrest, as usual, attracted a barrage of his profiles from exiled and dissident Rwandans.
Back to his daughter, in her Twitter thread, unlike the other of the System’s errant kids, she was not attacking President Kagame. Instead, she was appealing for his “timely intervention” in what she said was a “protracted case between our family business and the ministry of agriculture and animal resources”.
The daughter, writing from North America actually allowed us the ordinary onlookers to know he had been arrested on June 29. Up until RIB announced the arrests on July 8, all that was out there, was the usual Kigali’s wild rumour mill.
Perhaps the biggest new item in Nkubili daughter’s posts, was the allegation that RIB had required him to pay Rwf 55m ($57,000) as “bail”. She said her Dad was very ill, and needed to be out.
In language typical of a kid consumed with “entitlement”, she wrote: “We hereby, Your Excellence expect your highly respected wisdom to excel.”
The Twitter thread by businessman Nkubili’s daughter, and the whole account, have since been deleted. Too late though, Rwandan Twitter known as #Rwot, have been sharing screenshots. Traces of the account can still be found by doing a Twitter search.
The case of the Rusagara daughters, Habumuremyi son, or the Nkubili daughter, come to remind those high up Rwanda’s societal ladder, that the tables can turn anytime.
The contrasts of Rwanda’s setup is all too clear on social media; there are those sharing evidence of flamboyance they are enjoing, those flooding social media with development pictures, the anonymous accounts rampaging on anyone who questions Rwanda’s story, and the very few voices writing about the plight of the vast majority out there.
Had it not been for fate catching up with them, the kids publishing their pain over their fathers who now find themselves on the wrong side, maybe they would have never known such a side existed anyway.