President Paul Kagame has granted mercy to convicted minors in Nyagatare Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre who passed primary and secondary school national exams with good grades.
The decision was announced on Friday during an extraordinary Cabinet Meeting chaired by the President.
“Pursuant to the powers conferred upon him by the laws, His Excellency the President of the Republic informed the Cabinet Meeting that he granted mercy for youth who were convicted and whom Rwanda Correctional Service helped to continue education and passed primary and secondary school with very high grades,” a cabinet decision, on the matter, read in part.
Recently, Rwanda Correctional Services, in collaboration with Rwanda Education Board (REB), authorised the young inmates to sit for examinations for the very first time since the facility was launched in 2014.
The centre accommodates child inmates between the ages of 14 and 18 who are convicted of various crimes. It provides Primary, secondary education and vocational training to the juveniles.
According to RCS spokesperson, Superintendent Hilary Sengabo, five juveniles, including one girl, sat for Ordinary Level Examination. Eleven, including two girls and nine boys, registered to sit Primary Leaving Examinations.
“All of them passed their exams, but in different grades. About six of them passed in the first Division, others are in Division 2, 3 and 4,” Sengabo added.
Sengabo however, could not confirm the exact number of those to be set free under the Presidential pardon window, stating that they are yet to know further details. However, he is optimistic that the Presidential pardon will boost the morale of other convicts to transform and even excel in their endeavors.
“As soon as the final list is out (of those juveniles that passed national exams better than the rest), that have been set free, we will inform you. Nonetheless, as RCS, we are happy that we reached our intended purpose of rehabilitation and transforming lives,” Sengabo added.
He noted that the juveniles would be given recommendations from RCS to join other schools for further studies.
Building a better generation
Johnston Busingye, the Minister of Justice, explained that the President was emphasizing on his desire to shape a generation of young people who are free from crime but rather focused to building a desired nation.
“To the justice sector, the President is giving these young people another chance to reorganize their lives and shun crime. To ‘the bigger world’, it means, prison is not the end of life; you can actually turn your life positive even from prison and once you do that there is always going to be a dividend,” Busingye said.
Busingye added that, “The society expects that these young people are going to take this opportunity and be serious with their education and not fall back into the crime. At the Political level, it demonstrates President’s stand on the young people—the future of this country is in the hands of these young people and the President has spared no effort to demonstrate that he wants to work with them to build a better future of this nation.”
In a recent interview with Sunday Times, the Head of Nyagatare Child Rehabilitation Centre Athanase Nyandwi, said the centre expects to add an Advanced level section this year.
Nyandwi explained that once a student performs well in national examinations, they will be promoted to a higher level while still serving their sentence. Understandably, this will serve those who didn’t pass as high to benefit from the Presidential Pardon.
The centre accommodates 297 juveniles, among them 22 girls. It was built by the government with the support from Unicef and DiDe (Dignity in Detention) at a cost of Rwf634 million.
DiDe was formed in 1992 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help improve the conditions of detention and give priority to minors and women.
Last December, President Kagame also pardoned Sixty-two girls and women convicted of abortion.
Other cabinet decisions
Meanwhile, Clare Akamanzi was appointed the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), during the extraordinary Cabinet meeting chaired by President Kagame, on Friday.
Akamanzi replaces Francis Gatare, who was also named the CEO of the newly created Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board. This automatically makes Akamanzi a member of the Cabinet as well.
Akamanzi was replaced at the Strategy and Policy Unit in the Office of the President by Lt Col Andrew Nyamvumba.
Emmanuel Hategeka was appointed the new Chief Operations Officer, replacing the outgoing Serge Kamuhinda.