Gasabo moves to auction city hotel

A longstanding hotel controversy, involving several court cases, deepened last week, with the latest standoff pitting Gasabo District authorities with the proprietor of the Remera-based facility.
The front view of Remera-based HotelTech. The New Times / John Mbanda.
The front view of Remera-based HotelTech. The New Times / John Mbanda.

A longstanding hotel controversy, involving several court cases, deepened last week, with the latest standoff pitting Gasabo District authorities with the proprietor of the Remera-based facility.

The district has vowed to press ahead with plans to auction the premises currently occupied by the Remera-based HotelTech in order to enforce a 2010 court decision on a damages case connected to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

But the proprietor of HotelTech, Pascal Ndahiro, has protested the move citing a separate pending court case in which he wants the landlord to repay him part of the money he says he used to develop the facility.

The property belongs to Theodora Barakengera, a Genocide fugitive believed to be staying in the US, who was found guilty of looting during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi by the Kacyiru and Biryogo Gacaca courts, resulting in the order to sell his premises to compensate the victims. 

Barakengera was the Director General of Kigali Central Prison, commonly known as ‘1930’.

On January 16, officials from Gasabo District and Remera Sector, accompanied by police officers delivered a notice to Ndahiro demanding the hotel exits the premises in two days, the businessman said.

Ndahiro claims he invested a total of Rwf76 million in the property he has occupied since 2006, alleging he agreed with the property owners – the family of former head of Kigali Central Prison, Theodore Barakengera – to use the facility until 2014.

According to the contract signed between the two parties, a copy of which The New Times has obtained, Ndahiro was required to pay Rwf11.5 million instead of Rwf18 million – retaining the balance as part of recovering the money he spent in renovation.

The contract, signed by Ndahiro and William Kamaro, son to Barakengera, show that Ndahiro incurred only Rw33,859,565 on renovation alone. However, the hotelier says that, besides the renovation works, he also spent another Rwf43 million on the construction of a kitchen, toilets and a parking lot. The contract, which came into force effective January 1, 2009 and is set to run out in 2014, also provided for the extension services but did not set a ceiling for the costs.

“I am not against the decision to auction the premises but let the process go on while I am in; I spent a lot of money through renovation and construction of new structures, which I can easily lose if I left before recovering it,” he told The New Times yesterday.

Ndahiro said he petitioned Gasabo Intermediate Court on January 19 requesting for an injunction, claiming the ruling is scheduled today (Monday).

Nonetheless, the Mayor of Gasabo District, Willy Ndizeye, said he was not aware of the injunction hearing, saying they had not received any notification to that effect.

Instead, he insisted HotelTech must leave the premises with immediate effect.

“For us, we are going ahead to implement a December 8 (2011) decision that was taken during a meeting convened by the Office of the Ombudsman, in which all the concerned parties were represented,” the mayor said yesterday.

“He has no choice but to respect the decision by the courts and the Ombudsman’s Office.”

The mayor added: “They were supposed to have vacated by now, but then, the hotel employees complained they were yet to be paid, that’s what has slowed us down; otherwise, the hotel will have to get out anytime from now.”

He referred to a separate Commercial High Court’s decision, which ruled that the premises be auctioned to pay the victims of Barakengera’s crimes – as the Gacaca courts had instructed – but that the balance from the proceeds must be deposited on a National Bank of Rwanda account (No.121542), from which the hotelier would be compensated his money should he win a separate court case.

It is from that balance Ndahiro would be compensated, as well, for his investments, in case he wins his case against Barakengera’s family – in a separate court.

The New Times has seen the February 2010 ruling, which, however, did not state whether Ndahiro should vacate before or after the public auction.

In the meantime, the wife to Theodore Barakengera, Rose Mukanyangezi, denies her family owes HotelTech’s Ndahiro, stating the assertion was “a mere fabrication.” “We don’t owe him anything,” she insisted yesterday.

It was not possible to reach her son, Kamaro, who struck the deal with Ndahiro on July 24, 2008.

The two had first entered into a contract over the same property on January 23, 2006, which they reviewed two years later.

She is also against the public auction, citing what she calls “technical errors”.

Mukanyangezi, however, declined to further comment on the controversy, which has surrounded the property for years, only saying, “There are so many cases involved, and so many controversies.”

On December 8, 2011, the Ombudsman office also held a meeting with all concerned institutions, to iron out the controversies surrounding the ownership and the sale of the hotel.

When The New Times visited the hotel yesterday, it was business as usual.

The minutes of the December 8, 2011 meeting convened by the Ombudsman’s office and attended by the concerned parties, read in part: “Pascal Ndahiro’s court cases have nothing to do with the sale of the property because it is not subject to those pending cases. The case only concerns the money he allegedly invested in premises, which he is supposed to be paid.”

During the meeting, attended by among others, Ndahiro, Barakengera’s spouse, Mukanyangezi, and those who were affected by Barakengera’s actions, it was agreed that Ndahiro be given a grace period of 10 days to give way for the public sale.

The five-page minutes were signed by Seraphine Ntagwabira Rumaziminsi and Ruth Vumiriya, both from the department of injustice prevention in the Ombudsman’s office.

Meanwhile, among those to be reimbursed as a result of the Gacaca rulings against Barakengera, is Alexis Bayingana, the proprietor of Alpha Palace Hotel and his brother-in-law, one Celestin Sematama, to the tune of Rwf33.9 million.

During the Genocide, Barakengera, working closely with Interahamwe killing squads, drew Tutsis from the nearby catholic centre, Centre Christus, and killed them from the hotel, using grenades.

The remains of about 15 victims of the Genocide were recovered from beneath the hotel’s sauna and ladies’ bathrooms, last July, allegedly prompting the flight of Kamaro, Barakengera’s son, with whom Ndahiro signed the rental contract.

As if the case had not seen enough twists and turns, Bayingana also threw the spanner in works, by laying a stake on the ownership of the hotel. The Alpha Palace Hotel proprietor claims he had already made good progress towards fully owning the hotel, after agreeing with Barakengera’s two sons, William Kamaro and Aloys Manzi, to buy it at Rwf180 million.

He said he had already paid Rwf50 million, including the Rwf33.9 million Barakengera owed him, in damages, as a result of the Gacaca case.

Bayingana says they had agreed that he would pay the balance (Rwf130 million) at a later date.

However, the Ombudsman’s meeting, in its resolutions, nullified Bayingana’s purchase of the premises.

During the meeting, Barakengera’s wife, Mukanyangezi, argued that the two sons were just caretakers of the property and that they had no authority to sell it.  She said that all the nine members of Barakengera’s close family were supposed to agree and sign on the sale agreement, which was not the case.

Speaking to The New Times, Bayingana said: “We agreed on Rwf50 million because they owed me Rwf33 million; I gave them an installment of Rwf17 million,” Bayingana stated. 

“Since the property is now up for sale, they now owe me a total Rwf50 million, which they are supposed to pay me after the auction as agreed during the meeting (with the officials from the Ombudsman’s office). If they don’t, I will have to take legal action,” added the hotelier.

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