Thousands of genocide suspects who had been sentenced to community service have since disappeared.
The Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS) has confirmed that 2,126 inmates who were serving their jail term have escaped since the programme was initiated in 2005.
Community service was introduced under as an alternative to prison for certain categories of genocide perpetrators who confessed. One of the goals was to reduce overcrowding in the country’s jails.
The sentences were handed over by Gacaca, the tradition grassroots court system. By the time the courts closed in July 2012, it had sentenced 84,896 people to community service.
According to the RCS commissioner Maj-Gen Paul Rwarakabije, the cause of the disappearance was attributed to the insufficient security measures, personnel and negligence.
“The programme is totally controlled by the districts. In some of the cases you would find that there are only five local defence personnel guarding a camp of over 1,000,” said Maj-Gen Rwarakabije.
Some have surrendered
He said that even though some of the convicts who had escaped have surrendered, the prisons body is working with districts to have more guards at the TIG camps to trace the convicts.
“The inmates who escaped are not far away from Rwanda, they are within the community. All we have to do is to get information and task local leaders. We are sure they will be apprehended,” he said.
According to Jean de Dieu Mucyo, the executive director of the national commission for the fight against genocide (CNLG), the disappearances are have caused the escapees could pose a serious danger to genocide survivors.
“It is something that needs to be taken seriously. There is a possibility that the disappearing convicts can end up back in the areas they were sentenced and avenge to those who testified against them. It is also possible that they can freely hide in other parts of the country,” Mr Mucyo said.
Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, the president of the umbrella association of genocide survivors Ibuka, said the matter is of great concern to survivors and called on the government to intensify security.
“People will feel threatened all over again,” Mr Dusingizemungu said. According to figures published by Hirondelle, a leading publication on genocide trial news, at least 53,000 inmates were put under the programme.
The publication reported that 47,721 of them completed their term and 24 were taken off the programme on medical grounds.
These inmates escaped at different intervals within the past nine years. In 2010, 392 escaped eight disappeared in 2013.
Out of the 53,366 who presented themselves for community service, 46,270 have served their sentence, 1,996 escaped during community service and 340 have died.
During community service, convicts help with public works such as building roads, bridges, public schools, orphanages and houses for the elderly.