• Sen. Safari absent for two weeks
The absence of prominent Senator, Stanley Safari was the subject of the Upper House’s debate yesterday, with some members claiming he had fled the country.
His absence from duty for an extended period drew suspicion, as well as drawing a hot debate with some calling for his expulsion.
“I started hearing about his disappearance on Tuesday and I immediately tried to reach him on his cell, but it was off,” Senate president, Dr Vincent Biruta said.
“We tried reaching him at his home but there was nobody apart from the house maid.”
According to Biruta, Sen. Safari who heads the Prosperity and Solidarity Party (PSP), was last seen on May 20 when he submitted a medical report claiming that he had a back problem and needed time off work. He was granted a couple of days off, but when they elapsed, the Senator was nowhere to be seen.
Biruta also informed the House that he had forwarded the matter to the police to assist with the search.
During the debate, the Senate heard that Safari is likely to have fled because of a Genocide case against him that is approaching its final stages.
Gacaca courts in Huye district are scheduled to give a verdict today.
“He is alleged to have rewarded Genocidaires for killing Tutsis in 1994 and he is also suspected to have been involved in the murder of Helen Kayitesi, a woman in Huye district during the Genocide.” Sen. Antoine Mugesera told the full house.
During the session, the Senators debated on whether to immediately expel Safari from the House or caution him for his continued absence.
Sen. Antoine Mugesera who sits on the Senatorial Disciplinary Commitee listed a number of cases that Safari had before the courts of law and called for his immediate expulsion from the House.
“He should be punished for being absent without permission and be expelled from the Senate. We should not take this issue lightly and I see no reason why we have to spend any more time debating this.”
Senator Joseph Karemera informed his colleagues that Safari even had some issues with his own party.
“The party (PSP) has been split in two factions and Safari headed one of them,” he revealed.
According to Karemerera, he was in the midst of reconciling the two factions when Safari disappeared, but other party members had requested him to go ahead with the reconciliation process.
“To me that was a clear indication that party members knew that Senator Safari was not going to be part of the talks anymore.”
Before his disappearance, Safari was a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security in the Senate.
Senate vice president Prosper Higiro also expressed concern over Safari’s disappearance.
“We don’t need experts to confirm to us that Safari is out of the country. It is clear he is out, because if he was within, we would have reacted on several media reports that claimed he had fled.” Higiro argued.
Higiro also called for his expulsion from the house, claiming that Safari may use his position as Senator unlawfully.
“We really have to take action immediately because wherever he is he might speak as a Senator, and indeed he is still a Senator until action to disown him is taken,” Higiro said.
Despite calls for his expulsion, Senator Augustine Iyamuremye warned that any such action would not be in line with the law that governs the Senate.
“We should keep in the confines of the law,” Iyamuremye said referring to article 99 of the law governing the senate.
According to the article, should a Senator go missing for six consecutive sessions without a genuine reason, he should be served with a warning letter. The law however goes on to state that if the Senator does not respond, the House can then go ahead and kick him out.
Most Senators then bought into the argument of sticking by the law. Sen. Safari will be issued with a warning letter and given a deadline of five days to respond. According to Biruta, all channels available will be used to try and reach the Senator.
“He will be contacted through the local authorities, email, and post office and his fate will be decided on either Wednesday or Friday next week.” Biruta said.