Countering narcotics head-on in Western Province
A fortnight ago, Rwanda National Police (RNP), prosecution and local authorities disposed of over 300, 000 pellets of cannabis valued at over Rwf60 million, in Rusizi District. The narcotics were seized in separate Police operations conducted in the past three months in Rusizi.
Just on Tuesday, the RNP Anti-Narcotics Unit (ANU) arrested two major drug suppliers in Kamonyi District. The narcotics were concealed in four sacks, and had been trafficked into the country through the Western region.
Last week, Police recovered 2, 046 pellets of cannabis (60kgs) in a travel agency, along Rubavu-Musanze highway. Two people; the owner of the narcotics and the driver, who facilitated the trafficker were taken into custody.
In April, ANU also intercepted 125kgs and 1230 rolls of cannabis from two traffickers in Rubavu.
In January, last year, Police seized about 420kgs of cannabis in Rubavu District.
According to Commissioner of Police (CP) John Bosco Kabera, the RNP spokesperson, trafficking and use of narcotic drugs in Rwanda remain a major concern affecting various sectors of development like security, youth development, education and health, among others.
“Combating the vice of narcotic drugs is by law, therefore, a national policy, which makes it everyone’s responsibility,” says CP Kabera.
During Umushyikirano 2017, President Paul Kagame, said: “The issue of drugs is an epidemic across the world that we have to take seriously. We cannot allow our youth to go to waste.”
Responding to the problem head-on has been—and still is—a joint multifaceted approach by RNP, Ministries of Health, Local Government and Justice as well as other institutions under the justice sector.
“The approach involves mapping out major transit routes, strengthening awareness in communities and schools on the ill-effects of abusing drugs to prevent new users; rehabilitation of addicts; and increased operations to break chains of supply,” CP Kabera says.
“The districts of Rusizi and Rubavu in the Western region were, therefore, mapped as one of the major transit routes, and like in other mapped areas, community policing efforts have strengthened, a reason as to why there is increased seizure of illicit drugs and arrest of traffickers because of increased public ownership and information sharing,” says the RNP spokesperson.
Other mapped trafficking routes include Kirehe and Nyagatare in the Eastern Province, Gicumbi and Burera districts in the Northern Province.
Besides Kirehe that lie on the borderline with Tanzania, Nyagatare, Gicumbi and Burera borders with Uganda, where especially assorted illicit gins are trafficked from.
“The general approach is to break chains of supply, and that goes with increased awareness to make community policing an effective tool for information flow on dealers but also to prevent especially the young people from being victims of trafficking and abuse,” explains CP Kabera.
About 70 percent of those arrested in drug related crimes, either as dealers and or abusers, fall in the age bracket of between 18 and 35 years. It’s an age either supposed to be in school or in the labour force.
Health and Economic Implications
The Ministry of Health says some cases of heart, liver, kidney and mental problems have been attributed to abuse of narcotic drugs.
The Government, for example, spends more than Rwf800 million every year (about Rwf70 million a month) on rehabilitation programmes at Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Skills Development Centre (IRVSDC), alone.
The rehabilitation is conducted in two phases; first six months of psychological and health rehabilitation, and another six months for vocational training.
The new penal code, in its article 263, provides punitive penalties in relation to drug related crimes
Any person who, in any way, eats, drinks, injects himself/herself, inhales or one who anoints oneself with psychotropic substances, commits an offence, with an imprisonment ranging between one and two years, or subject to a penalty of community service.
Any person who, unlawfully produces, transforms, transports, stores, gives to another or who sells narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances commits an offence. Upon conviction, he/she is liable to between 20 years and life imprisonment, and a fine between Rwf15 million and Rwf30 million.