Panafrican News Agency

Rwandan dailies highlight resumption of RwandAir flights, trial of former Rwandan PM over dud cheques

Kigali, Rwanda (PANA) - Rwandan newspapers this week focused on the resumption of RwandAir flights effective 1 August and the trial of former Prime Minister, Dr. Pierre  Damien Habumuremyi, for breach of trust and issuing several dud cheques, among other charges.

The English daily 'The New Times' wrote that Rwanda flag carrier RwandAIr officials say they are confident demand for air travel will gradually pick up as countries prepare to open up borders and airlines finally resume operations after months of suspension.

According to the newspaper, RwandAir will resume flights, starting with Africa destinations and Dubai in the Middle East, before increasing flying to other destinations as demand for air travel picks.

The airline Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Yvonne Makolo told reporters that there is a lot of anxiety among passengers during this time of COVID-19, but the airline is putting in place different measures to ensure that it is safe for passengers to travel.

“We have put all measures in place as directed by ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organisation] and WHO [World Health Organisation] to make sure that our passengers and staff are safe when we resume operations,” she noted.

According to the new instructions, all passengers before flying, will have to show COVID-19 negative certificate, whether they are arriving, transiting or departing from Rwanda.

Passengers on departure will respect all health safety measures where they will be guided by physical distancing signs placed around the airport, she told reporters during a tour of the Kigali International Airport on Friday.

'The New Times' reported that sanitisers will from now on be available at check-in desks, counters, and passport control areas, while passengers will be welcomed by thermal imaging cameras deployed around departure and arrival areas.

Every check-in counter is equipped with a sanitiser so that there’s no contamination through document handling, and counters are protected with glass visors.

In addition, seats at the waiting area will be marked to direct passengers to leave a one-metre sit between every other passenger, allowing them to respect health measures of physical distancing, the newspaper wrote.

Noting the new orientation towards the reopening of all activities at Kigali International Airport, the semi-private 'KT Press' reported that Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA), RwandAir and Rwanda Airports Company (RAC) have been working tirelessly to ensure that by 1 August, the airport has all the necessary safety measures.

In an article entitled "Kigali International Airport Ready As Rwanda Plans To Reopen Airports On August 1", 'KT Press' added that sanitiser dispensers everywhere, thermal cameras at all entry points and a temperature-taking robot that warns passengers to wear their masks properly are some of the measures that have been put in place at Kigali International Airport (KIA) ahead of reopening. 

Rwanda announced that it will reopen airports on 1 August, nearly five months after the country stopped all incoming and outbound flights as part of the measures to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

On a separate topic 'KT Press' wrote that the former Prime Minister Dr. Habumuremyi was arraigned in Gasabo Primary Court in Kigali where he was charged with breach of trust and issuing several bounced cheques, among other charges.

The newspaper wrote that through his defence team, Habumuremyi argued that he has hypertension, which makes it difficult to defend himself before court with the public including journalists in attendance but the argument was dismissed by the judge.

According to the newspaper, the judge also ruled that the law allowed journalists to cover the case, including capturing video and recordings once they apply for a permit.

Prosecutors say that Dr Habumuremyi issued cheques worth over Rwf170 million, some under his name and others in the names of Christian University of Rwanda, which bounced.

The prosecution alleges that Dr Habumuremyi issued a tender worth Rwf20.5m for the purchase of 20 computers for the university, but the supplier was first required to deposit Rwf10m as security, an amount which would be refunded upon delivery of the equipment.

'The New Times' reported that Habumuremyi pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

In an article titled "Habumuremyi blames Covid-19 for bounced cheques", the newspaper wrote that Habumuremyi himself told the court that the money in the case was only for the university as an institution – not for his personal pocket, nor for his family.

His lawyers also asked the court to examine if really his case is meant to be handled by a criminal court, and not a civil or business court.

In his defense, he said that the cheques the university issued were not exactly meant for payments, but rather were a form of commitment to the creditors to demonstrate that the university owed them money.

In addition to this, he also attributed the university’s financial woes to the Covid-19 pandemic, which, he said, hindered the institution’s ability to pay its creditors, according to the newspaper.

-0- PANA TWA/MA 18July2020