POLITICS - The in-fighting tearing the Liberal Party (PL) apart has resulted into the suspension of the party’s four top leaders who include two MPs.
After a heated six-hour meeting on Tuesday at the PL headquarters in Kicukiro, the party’s executive committee voted to suspend MPs Elie Ngirabakunzi (party treasurer) and Isaie Murashi.
Also suspended are the party’s first vice president for the Southern Province, Dr Laurien Nyabyenda, Emmanuel Uwimana (first vice president for Western Province) and Emmanuel Musabyimana, the party’s president in Kicukiro Sector in Kicukiro District, Kigali.
The crisis meeting which started at around 6p.m through midnight was the climax of intrigues and backbiting among the party’s top brass, which saw the now suspended officials accuse other senior party leaders of corruption.
The five politicians accused new party president Protais Mitali, first vice president Dr Odette Nyiramirimo and others of rigging the August 5 party elections, which brought them to power. They also accuse them of fraud and intimidation. Mitali is also the minister of Commerce, Industry, Investment Promotion, Tourism and Cooperatives while Nyiramirimo is a Senator.
The decision to suspend the officials came a day after the five men petitioned the Minister of Local Government, Good Governance and Social Welfare, Protais Musoni and asking him to disband the new party bureau and help establish an independent inquiry into the allegations. During the same meeting, a party probe team led by MP Emmanuel Mugabowindekwe released its report saying there was no evidence of election rigging and condemned the petitioners for using abusive language in an August 10 letter to Mitali contesting the results.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Mugabowindekwe denied that his six-man probe commission had been compromised by Mitali.
“Even if the allegations were justified, there could have been a better way of putting it,” he said, adding that the petitioners should apologise.
However, Mugabowindekwe said the commission was unable to exhaust its investigations citing lack of technical capacity.
He admitted that some witnesses told the commission that some people approached them with bribes, but added that it was difficult to prove the allegations. “Probably another investigation can do more,” he said. Mugabowindekwe said that there were some cases of electoral irregularities but they were not enough to render the election unfair.
He said in one case results indicated that 14 extra people had voted from the Western Province constituency because some people had voted illegally.
Nyiramirimo confessed she was among people that voted unlawfully. She was part of the taskforce overseeing the elections among voters from the Western Province but when voting time came, the taskforce members voted contrary to the law.
Although Mitali said the decision to suspend the politicians from the party rests with the National Council, a release indicates that PL’s evaluation commission was asked to reach a final decision on the suspensions within 30 days, after which the National Council will be called and informed about the recommended action.
The evaluation commission is chaired by Alex Mbaraga, who was also on the party commission that probed the allegations. However, Mbaraga is himself accused of having colluded with Mitali to rig the elections. The suspended officials, some of whom attended yesterday’s conference as ordinary party members, have protested what they call Mitali’s decision to expel them for having accused him of corruption.
‘Expelling members on those grounds demonstrate acts of intimidation he (Mitali) always uses,’ they said in a statement circulated immediately after the press conference.
They said they were being victimized for pointing a finger to corruption, a vice ‘which the President of the Republic has for long been appealing to Rwandans to fight’.
They said their ‘anti-corruption’ stance is not intended to destroy PL but to build a ‘party devoid of fraud and corruption.’
After the conference, journalists swarmed Ngirabakunzi who maintained his earlier position, insisting he was a victim of frankness.
“At one time I was fighting Genocide ideology but I was accused of harbouring it. Similarly I accused the greedy, and I have become the victim,” he said.
He said they were waiting for the party to correct their mistakes “or else we take other measures.”
“We shall take the matter to the courts of law should the party fail to address the problem,” he said.
Murashi said the party’s action was intended to cover up ‘mistakes’ committed by top leaders. “It is a way of hiding the truth which I think is not sustainable,” he said.
It however remains to be seen whether the party will now go ahead and ask the Chamber of Deputies to dismiss Ngirabakunzi and Murashi as PL lawmakers.