A Senate commission has expressed serious concerns over the state of our prisons, and has advised the line ministry to do everything possible to improve the standards there. Among other things noted by Senator Valens Munyabagisha, the president of the commission, were overcrowding, and dilapidated and leaking roofs.
The other serious problem was an inappropriate salary scale that was so low as not to be in comformity with the current living costs.
The minister of Internal Security, Sheik Musa Fazil Harerimana, explained that many prisons are in the process of being relocated, like Kigali Central Prison; so there was no sense in doing costly renovations when the places are going to be pulled down.
It is true that the problem of congestion in prisons is going to become history, as ultra modern prison facilities have been constructed in Butamwa, to take care of the big numbers of inmates that are teeming in the present small and old fashioned facilities that the government has now.
These modern prisons will be the ones to receive the inmates from the ICTR, if any are transferred to Rwanda as has been mooted. The Senators’ concerns should probably have been better addressed towards expediting the project.
One of the concerns the Senators raised, however, should be addressed immediately; and this is the question of the low pay for prison warders. It should be noted that Minister Harerimana’s answer addressed arrears for the warders, not bettering their pay package.
It is not even enough to say that we are in potential danger. These warders are keeping custody of some of the most hardened criminals the world has ever seen; unrepentant Genocidaires of a first class nature, who are being held in check by a tenuous link in the justice sector.
It is this tenuous link that should be strengthened so that Rwandans do not sleep with their hearts in their mouths for fear of getting over-run by cutthroats in the night.
More to this, it is so tempting to divert justice when our custodians are ill-paid. The warders can get compromised by the rich Genocidaires or their compatriots, if they are so badly paid.
Arrange to pay our prison warders better wages, Minister Harerimana.