Rwanda beefs up border patrols to stop entry of illicit drugs

Sunday January 14 2018

Government officials destroy illicit drugs in

Government officials destroy illicit drugs in Kigali. Drug abuse is increasingly becoming a menace in the country. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NATION 

By MOSES K. GAHIGI
More by this Author

The Rwandan government plans to boost surveillance at border entry points after seeing a link between cross-border transporters and the emerging illicit drug problem in the country.

Despite efforts by the Rwanda National Police and other institutions to fight abuse and trafficking of drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin, the drugs have still found their way into the country — contributing to a growing drug abuse problem among the youth.

“We have established that the drugs are coming from outside the country,” said assistant Police Commissioner and Police spokesperson Theos Badege.

He said Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been identified as key entry routes and the government is working with both countries to stem the movement and sale of the illicit drugs.

ACP Badege said Rubavu, which shares a border with DR Congo, and Rusumo-Kirehe, on the border with Tanzania, were the main routes used to get marijuana into Kigali, mostly using cross-border transporters.

However, there have also been attempts by traffickers to get drugs in through Kigali International Airport.

A woman travelling from the Eastern province was recently arrested after she was found with 120 sachets of illicit spirits strapped around the baby on her back. Police also impounded a vehicle and a motorcycle, which had about 400 kilogrammes of marijuana.

On December 29, the police destroyed narcotic drugs worth more than Rwf16.7 million ($19,539) seized in various operations in Kigali.

The drugs had been intercepted on their way from the DR Congo.

Penal code

Article 594 of the penal code stipulates that any person who unlawfully makes, transforms, imports, or sells narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances within the country, shall be liable to three to five years in jail and a fine of between Rwf500,000 ($585) to Rwf5 million ($5,850).

ACP Badege said the different points of entry into the country are now well equipped with equipment and sniffer dogs to scan and detect illicit drugs.

“We now know what to do about this problem and there is progress especially in Nyamirambo and Gatsata,” he said.

Other crimes

ACP Badege said drug abuse leads to other crimes like rape, defilement, violence, and theft.

The director-general of the newly established National Rehabilitation Services, Aimé Bosenibamwe, recently said they are seeing an increase in the number of parents begging to have their children taken into rehabilitation centres as drug abuse is ruining the lives of many young people in the country.

Rwanda currently has three rehabilitation centres of Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Skills Development Centre, Gitagata and Nyamagabe. The centres host more than 4,000 young people between the age of 17 and 18.

Speaking during the closing of the recent annual national dialogue (Umushikirano), President Paul Kagame underscored the need to fight drug abuse, which he said was destroying the country’s youth and urged authorities to put in more effort to end the scourge.