Nyarugenge mayor pins SOTRA
A misunderstanding between a transport operator and district authorities yesterday left hundreds of passengers heading to upcountry destinations stranded as the drivers of SOTRA Tours chose to park their buses in protest.
The early morning strike saw over 130 coasters and omnibuses owned by the SOTRA tours lining ETO Muhima park as passengers who had booked tickets a day earlier looked on helplessly.
The standoff between SOTRA and Nyarungenge district authorities revolves around the parking lot at Rwanda Paints which SOTRA occupied before only to be kicked out later by the owners. The transport company was renting these premises from Rwanda paints.
In an interview with The New Times, the Director of Sotra Tours, Frederick Ntirenganya, said the operator is now threatening to drag district authorities to court over damages, arguing that they were only given a one day’s notice to vacate the parking lot.
“To us, the district has been unfair. A one day notice cannot make it possible for us to look for another parking space for over 130 cars in this short period. We needed at least a week to look for a new place as these issues are sorted out” said Ntirenganya.
Efforts to speak to businessman Rumanyika, who owns SOTRA were futile but sources on the ground reveal that SOTRA paid its monthly rent amounting to Rwf 4m to a one Jean Claude Ruzibiza, a former employee of Rwanda Paints who never delivered the money.
According to the Mayor of Nyarugenge, Orijene Rutayisire, the disputes between both sides date back to February when SOTRA could not come to terms with Rwanda Paints regarding the parking lot.
“We have tried several times to bring these two to an understanding but it just hasn’t worked, so we decided to close the parking yard as the two come to a common understanding” said Rutayisire.
He said that until 3rd June, SOTRA had been operating in the yard but had been informed to look for another place though it didn’t. He added that SOTRA went on to break into the parking lot after police and district authorities had closed it, an act which is punishable by law.
SOTRA on its side claims it is a victim of foul play, blaming its rivals Horizon, Volcano and Virunga for its woes.
According to Nirenganya, rival companies conspired to have it thrown out of the strategic parking yard and further claims that corruption is involved in the saga.
Rutayisire however challenged SOTRA to come up with proof with its allegations or go to court to seek legal redress.
SOTRA claims that they have now made losses of over Rwf 60m in total during the days they were shut out. It also claims that its rivals had agreed to pay 4m for the parking lot but SOTRA increased its monthly rent to 4.2m, which Rwanda Paints agreed but they were surprised to be thrown out.
Rutayisire disputed the allegations saying that instead Rwanda Paints asked for the intervention of district authorities following SOTRA’s refusal to honour the terms agreed upon.