2019 was the year that confirmed that drug abuse among artistes was rampant. There were several cases of artistes who were in and out of prison for abusing or trafficking drugs. Some artistes have been spotted indulging in drugs and excess alcohol consumption. Some of them are still in prison, while others continue to battle court cases, and others are in and out of rehabilitation centres. At least a dozen artistes faced cases of drug abuse and trafficking last year. Serge Ngenzi, aka Neg G The General, is going through rehabilitation at IWAWA rehabilitation centre. The aspiring rapper, whose talent was curtailed by drug abuse, Neg G has been in and out of rehab. In Iwawa, he was joined by fellow rapper and former Tuff Gang member Fireman, real name Francis Uwimana, in 2018 due to drug abuse. Between 2011 and 2014, Fireman was considered among the fast rising rappers in Rwanda, capable of upstaging the likes of Jay Polly. Elie Rukundo, also known as Green P, is currently at Kicukiro Police Station, where he is detained for abusing drugs. He was arrested on December 9, 2019. His trial is scheduled for this month. Antoine Dushime, aka Young Tone, is also at IWAWA rehabilitation centre. He checked into rehab at the end of 2018. Similarly, in December last year, Pacson, born Eddie Lwanga, was arrested on suspicion of possession and trafficking of strong narcotic drugs such as, heroin and cocaine. The faded rapper was released on bail, but the case remains in prosecution. According to Abidjan Uwayo, a music critique, local artistes are increasingly indulging in drug abuse because they are not busy in their lives, and have little ambition to advance their career. “Most of these people are not so busy. They are comfortable where they are. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop; so when they don’t have something to occupy them especially at their age, they tend to engage in a lot of drug abuse,” said Uwayo. It is feared many will fall into drug abuse and perhaps in rehab centres, given the conduct of many, whose penchant for drug abuse is an open secret. Observers say that proliferation of drugs in the showbiz industry is on the rise. Last year, Kinyatrap king Bushali and his colleague, Slum Drip were arrested on suspicion of possession of drugs. They are also facing charges for drug abuse. Shalom Azabe, a general counsellor, said that most of the time artistes end up abusing drugs because of their background. “Most of these artistes, not just Rwandans, have grown up on the streets, or went through difficulties while growing up. Majority of them have not completed their studies, hence engaging in drug abuse to cover up their pain,” Azabe explained. Though the likes of Fireman graduated from Iwawa rehabilitation centre, the struggle to break the addiction remains even after rehabilitation. Talented singer, James Gisa, also known as Gisa Cy’inganzo was released last year after completing a prison sentence of two year, but he has also been in and out. Experts say that some artistes take those drugs because of some false stereotypes and peer pressure. “Some take these drugs because most of their colleagues take them. They believe that their performances shall be better if they take drugs,” said Azabe. According to Commissioner of Police John Bosco Kabera, the Police Spokesperson, drug addiction among local artistes is copied from their international colleagues who think that consuming drugs relieves them from stage fright, something he warned is very dangerous. Drug consumption has an impact on the industry and on the artistes as individuals. According to Jacques Muligande, aka Mighty Popo, the Director of Nyundo School of Art and Music, drugs have consequences on the artistes. It affects their performance and growth. “Artistes are influential. People look up to them. When we are teaching upcoming musicians we encourage them to avoid drugs because they don’t add anything to their talents. Drugs actually affect the voice of an artiste,” he noted, adding that: “Drugs also impede their thinking. When they take drugs, they do not think clearly, hence they can’t compose catchy lyrics or even put together good story lines.” Mighty Popo said that in order to eradicate the vice, it must start with the youth and upcoming artistes because that is where the bigger problem is. “We only realise artistes are indulging in drugs because they are famous but drugs are in schools, bars and other public places which is where we need to put focus,” he said. Mani Martin, a renowned Afrobeat and pop singer, has urged his fellow musicians, to avoid drugs which he said have destroyed a lot of careers. “To those who have not yet started taking any drugs, we should learn from experiences. Worldwide we know of tragic stories of the likes of Whitney Houston, who was considered to be the most powerful female pop star, and among the best vocalists in the world,” he advised. “But when they (drugs) came into her life, she lost all her power and ended up dying helplessly in a bathroom. There are many stories out there of artistes succumbing to drugs, from which we need to draw lessons,” added Mani Martin. The ‘My Destiny’ star noted that some young people have role models, who also engage in drugs and they also do the same— thinking it is sophisticated. “Every person has a positive side you can learn something from, and the negative side you can just neglect, you only have to choose which part of the person to learn from. You can’t take drugs simply because your idol is a drug abuser. That is wrong,” he asserted. The Ministry of Youth and Culture, said it is coming up with a policy to address this challenge in the music industry. “We are thinking of different mechanisms, one of them will be not giving platforms to artistes who drug abuse is known. Imag-ine giving platforms such as concerts to artistes who are known to consume drugs? Giving them space is akin to saying that is ok to use drugs,” said Edouard Bamporiki, the State Minister in charge of Culture. “We cannot continue to tolerate drug abuse and hyping artistes who are known addicts. It is similar to advertising use of drugs,” who prefers a tough stance alongside other mechanisms such as rehabilitation and counselling. In other efforts, RNP is working with a group a group of artistes to fight drugs within their community as one of the initiatives to deal with the challenge. “We have Anti-drug ambassadors who are there to help us fight drugs, starting amongst themselves. They start the campaign from their colleagues, encouraging them to stay off drugs,” says Kabera. He added, however, that for those who don’t want to heed to the call, the long arm of the law will catch up with them because there is no particular group that can freely indulge in drug use. He advised artistes to report such case before they escalate in order for their colleagues to be helped before they fall into addiction.