Police presence in Kiziba refugee camp, around 15 kilometres outside of Kibuye town, increased over the weekend, which police say is nothing more than routine patrols.
According to Police Spokesperson Theos Badege, the patrols helped avert mischievous youthful refugees, some of whom engaged in illicit activities, including use and distribution of drugs.
“During the patrols, police removed roadblocks manned by young people. Some of the youth were suspected [of using] this opportunity to traffic drugs in the camp,” Badege said.
The police also reported minor provocation from refugee inhabitants, but police were primarily able to avoid confrontation and continue their activities.
The patrols come two months after a protest over food shortages turned violent.
On February 20, about 700 refugees from Kiziba camp, which hosts over 17,000 refugees from Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, camped in front of the UN refugee office to protest food cuts implemented in January.
The cuts were occasioned by reductions in food rations by World Food Programme to camp inhabitants by 25 per cent just few months after a ten per cent cut was implemented in November, 2017.
This reduced monthly individual food rations to nearly Rwf6,500 per month, causing many refugees to consider returning home to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Police reiterated that the purposes of the current police patrols in the camp include “public order, crime prevention and detection”.
“The patrol is like any other conducted in any area, such as street or sector,” Badege said.
UNHCR and WFP continue to struggle to finance the roughly 178,000 refugees in Rwanda.
In the meantime, the police “advise [everyone] to respect law enforcers – comply with laws, rules and regulations.”
In a statement released after the protest in February, police reminded refugees that disruption of public order is unacceptable.
Police requested that they “respect the law, avoid unlawful demonstration and exercise calm as their issues are looked into by concerned institutions.”
Meanwhile, in an email to The New Times Tuesday, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reported that the situation at the camp has normalised.
UNHCR spokesperson Daniela Ionita stated that on Friday 20 April, Rwandan National Police began quietly patrolling the camp.
“Yesterday,” said Ionita referring to Monday, “due to some commotion initiated by a few youths who gathered to hinder the RNP patrol from proceeding further into the camp, activities have been stopped in the afternoon.”
No physical violence was reported over the course of the operation, according to her.