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GOVERNMENT OF RWANDA v. RWANDA WORKING GROUP

March 19, 2001

THE GOVERNMENT OF RWANDA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RWANDA WORKING GROUP ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Urbina, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING DEFENDANT JOHNSON'S MOTION TO DISMISS; DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on defendant Robert W. Johnson II's motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(h), and the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment. The current Government of Rwanda ("the plaintiff") brings this action against the Rwanda Working Group ("RWG"), an association allegedly hired to perform lobbying services by the government that ruled Rwanda from April to July 1994 ("the predecessor government"), Robert W. Johnson II ("defendant Johnson" or "Mr. Johnson"), an attorney for the predecessor government and an alleged member of the RWG, and Aloys Uwimana ("defendant Uwimana" or "Ambassador Uwimana"), the predecessor government's ambassador to the United States (collectively, "the defendants").

The plaintiff asserts two claims against defendant Johnson and the RWG, one for "conversion, accounting and constructive trust," and the other for breach of fiduciary duty and constructive trust. See Compl. ¶¶ 56-65. Both claims seek the return of $83,000 (the sum of $28,000 paid by the predecessor government to Johnson and/or the RWG under one contract and $55,000 paid to Johnson and/or the RWG under a second contract) plus punitive damages.*fn1 The plaintiff maintains that this court has diversity jurisdiction because the plaintiff is a foreign state, the defendants are citizens of different states, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(4).

Defendant Johnson moves to dismiss the complaint as to himself on the ground that the plaintiff's claims fail to satisfy the $75,000 jurisdictional requirement of Title 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).*fn2 The plaintiff, in turn, moves for partial summary judgment against defendant Johnson and defendant Uwimana. For the reasons that follow, the court will deny defendant Johnson's motion to dismiss and will deny the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

In 1994, massive upheaval engulfed the country of Rwanda. On April 6, 1994, when Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana died in a plane crash after 21 years in power, simmering political unrest erupted into civil war. See Def.'s Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Partial Summ.J., Ex. 6 (citing 1995 DEP'T ST. COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 1994, Rwanda Section). Ethnic tension between the Hutu (85 percent of the population) and the Tutsi (14 percent of the population) escalated when Hutu extremists massacred hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom were Tutsi. See id. The Rwandan Patriotic Front, the current government, which is comprised largely of Tutsi's, halted the killings with a military offensive that overtook the self-proclaimed Hutu leadership in July 1994. See id. The ascension of the Rwandan Patriotic Front led to a massive flight of Hutu civilians out of Rwanda for fear of Tutsi reprisal. See id.

In early to mid-1994, Defendant Aloys Uwimana was the Rwandan ambassador to the United States for the predecessor government of Rwanda. See Compl. ¶ 7. The predecessor government ruled Rwanda from April 8, 1994 until July 4, 1994. See Pl.'s Mot. for Partial Summ.J. at 2.; Compl. ¶ 8. On July 4, 1994, the plaintiff — the current Government of Rwanda — replaced the predecessor government. See Compl. ¶ 8. The plaintiff was officially sworn in on July 19, 1994. See id.

Ambassador Uwimana retained defendants Robert W. Johnson II and the RWG to perform lobbying services for the predecessor government to improve the Rwandan government's image in the United States. See Compl. ¶ 17. A Memorandum of Understanding executed on July 8, 1994 ("July 8th Memorandum") between the RWG and Ambassador Uwimana on behalf of the predecessor government provided the details of the lobbying agreement. See id. Ambassador Uwimana paid defendants Johnson and/or RWG an initial payment of $28,000 for the lobbying services on July 13, 1994. See Compl. ¶¶ 18, 20.

After the current government of Rwanda replaced the predecessor government on July 4, 1994, the U.S. Department of State ordered the Rwandan Embassy closed on July 15, 1994. See Compl. ¶ 21. The Department of State also ordered Ambassador Uwimana to relinquish his credentials no later than July 22, 1994 and to leave the United States. See id.

On July 21, 1994, Mr. Johnson wrote a progress letter to Ambassador Uwimana regarding the contracted lobbying activities. See Compl. ¶ 22. Mr. Johnson also detailed "On-going/New Projects." See Compl.Ex. H at 2. The projects discussed included work being done to help the Ambassador and other embassy officials with asylum requests to remain in the United States since "the conditions in Rwanda are potentially life-threatening." See id. In the July 21st letter, Mr. Johnson referred to "the transition" of the Rwandan government and stated that "the Embassy needs to provide a check payable to my trust account in the amount of $55,000 tomorrow" to continue work on "these projects." See id.; Compl. ¶ 23.

On July 22, 1994, Ambassador Uwimana wrote a second check for $55,000 from the Rwandan Government to Mr. Johnson and/or RWG. See Compl. ¶ 25. The plaintiff claims that Ambassador Uwimana wrote the check after his diplomatic mission expired, and thus, that he had no authority to spend Rwanda's funds. See id.

According to the plaintiff, it asked defendants Johnson and Uwimana several times to return the money. See Compl. ¶ 29. The defendants refused. See id. The plaintiff wrote a final letter to the defendants on November 16, 1994, again requesting the return of the $55,000 check. See Compl. ¶ ...


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