Terrorism or insurance fraud: Fire outbreaks leave us with more questions than answers

Business came to a standstill in Nyabugogo, a Kigali business hub on Tuesday at around 11:15am when fire broke out at a complex that houses more than 10 businesses including a lodge and several wholesale outlets.

Business came to a standstill in Nyabugogo, a Kigali business hub on Tuesday at around 11:15am when fire broke out at a complex that houses more than 10 businesses including a lodge and several wholesale outlets.

On Tuesday, I received a frantic text message declaring a ‘fire in Nyabugogo Taxi Park’. For a minute I thought I was suffering from a serious case of déjà vu because less than twenty-four hours previously, I had receieved another one informing me about a fire in Gikondo. Last week, I received yet another one telling me that shops in the Quartier Matheus were alight. I have been back home for exactly two weeks and its been three major blazes. I would laugh and say that I brought back some strange Chinese bad luck, but this is no laughing matter. Plus, Muhanga and Rubavu prisons suffered the same fate weeks before I got back.

The New Times has published articles detailing the issues that have arisen because of these fires such as the need fire insurance, improved electrical installation, a building code and the need for improved fire safety and prevention education.

For the longest time, whenever there was a fire, we’d simply blame it on faulty installations and power surges. We did so because it made sense. However, what is happening now isn’t making any sense at all.  Yes, many of our buildings probably have shoddy installation and they are a fire risk. However, buildings in Rwanda have ALWAYS had poor electrical installation; that is nothing new. Some people are blaming the dry season. Well, I’ve seen countless dry seasons but I’ve never seen so many building fires in such a short space of time.

It is my opinion that only arson can explain these recent fires. And there are two theories that might explain why arson is being used.

First of all, arsonists might be committing these crimes because they want insurance payouts. It happens elsewhere in the world and it wouldn’t be particularly shocking if the police found out that it was some sort insurance fraud.

I personally believe that it is something more nefarious than more insurance fraud going on in our fair city.

Last Thursday, while following the FDLR-RNC trail taking place at the Kanombe Military High Court, I came to learn that, according to the Prosecution, FDLR rebels were recruiting and training young Rwandan men and women in urban terrorism. The Prosecution submitted to the Court testimony alleging that Pelagie Nizeyimana, one of the 16 defendants, travelled to FDLR-controlled parts of East DRC, met up with an FDLR intelligence chief called ‘Alleluya’ and trained in the use of sub-machine guns, small arms, grenades and recruitment methods.


Terror suspect, Pelagie Nizeyimana, in military court.

Terror suspect, Pelagie Nizeyimana, in military court.

What caught my attention was that the FDLR allegedly trained her in arson, more particularly in how to burn down petrol stations in the country.  Burning down petrol stations is barely a ‘hop and skip’ away from doing the same to commercial buildings. Especially those that have plenty of incendiary materials like kerosene, alcohol, mattresses and what not.

I don’t want to say that the Prosecution’s evidence was accepted by the defendant (she says that she was in DRC to do her wedding shopping and pleads innocent of all charges) or the court (we will know when it makes a definitive ruling), however, the testimony evidence gives me some things to think about.

It wouldn’t be a huge leap for the people who were throwing grenades into crowds to start burning down buildings willy-nilly.  Throw in the fact that there is testimony that FDLR is training people in urban terrorism and my suspicions that there are other forces at play here (other than shoddy electrical installations and dry season) dont sound like the musings of a conspiracy theorist.

Truth be told I am simply speculating here. I can only simply try to do the mathematics. Something fishy is going on here and I can only hope that the police can find out what is happening and let us know.


This blog post was published earlier by The New Times Publication


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