Residents, especially youths, in Nyagatare district are taking charge in the fight against illegal cross-border activities, transforming the region into a model for other border areas. Their active involvement includes tracking down smugglers, confiscating contraband, and promptly reporting incidents to authorities, something that has contributed to enhanced border security. With the youth actively engaged in safeguarding their community, the district is setting a precedent in the Eastern Province for combating illegal cross-border activities. ALSO READ: PHOTOS: New Genocide memorial inaugurated in Nyagatare In the remote area of Karushuga, near the Tanzania border, Charles Maniriho, 28, and his team of four dedicated youths successfully tracked and seized a shipment of cannabis pellets and other contraband, such as plastic bags. These vigilant individuals are part of a group of cross-border watchdogs who have taken it upon themselves to patrol the border and promptly alert authorities about any illegal activities. Maniriho stated that their efforts have yielded positive results, leading to a reduction in illicit operations in the area. Figures from the Rwanda National Police in the Eastern Province highlight the noteworthy contributions of youth in combating illegal activities. Over the past three months, Nyagatare district has reported several cases of confiscated cannabis, seized smuggled items, and arrests related to illegal border crossings from Tanzania. Superintendent of Police (SP) Hamdun Twizeyimana, the Rwanda National Police Spokesman in the Eastern Province, acknowledged the success achieved in curbing illegal activities, with 292 drug dealing cases recorded from February 23rd to April 23rd. The seizures during this period included 150 kilograms of cannabis and 1,276 liters of kanyanga, leading to the arrest of 234 suspects. Additionally, 133 cases of smugglers were intercepted, resulting in the arrest of 173 individuals engaged in illegal cross-border activities. ALSO READ: How smartphones have turned around the fortunes of Nyagatare farmers Moreover, the cross-border watchdogs in Nyagatare played a crucial role in apprehending smugglers involved in the trafficking of second-hand clothes, insecticides, plastic bags, onions, juices, tea, yeast, tobacco, and shoes from the Tanzanian side into Rwanda. The Kiyombe sector, located in the northern part of the district, served as a preferred route for smugglers from Uganda. Jeannette Uwineza, a resident of the sector, shared that their role as cross-border watchdogs significantly contributed to reducing illegal activities in their area. Smugglers used to pass through her hometown, but since the implementation of their mandate, such activities have been curtailed. To ensure comprehensive coverage, Nyagatare district has deployed over 600 Imboni z' umupaka (cross-border watchdogs) to key border points in seven sectors. These dedicated individuals are responsible for tracking, reporting, and apprehending suspects involved in cross-border illegal activities. The Eastern Province Governor acknowledged the critical role played by the cross-border watchdogs in maintaining law and order at checkpoints and emphasized the need for sustained support to bolster their efforts. The aim is to achieve a 100 percent success rate in curbing illegal activities across all checkpoints, with partners, districts, and the Province examining ways to provide professional support and improve working conditions for these youth. Nyagatare district faces unique challenges in combating cross-border lawlessness due to its borders with Uganda and Tanzania. However, the district has achieved commendable progress in the fight against smuggling, illegal border crossings, and the drug trade. In fact, these intensified efforts played a significant role in Nyagatare being recognized as the best-performing district in the 2021–2022 Imihigo performances, attaining a remarkable score of 81.64%. Currently, Nyagatare, along with other districts such as Gatsibo, Kayonza, Kirehe, Ngoma, and Bugesera, operates more than 80 informal checkpoints. These checkpoints are manned by diligent youth who work in shifts, ensuring round-the-clock vigilance. While significant strides have been made in combating smuggling, illegal crossings, and the drug trade, further improvements are needed to enhance the working conditions and support for youth employed at checkpoints. The youth have expressed their need for torches during night shifts and a working contract with the district to secure their employment and obtain better remuneration. Esron Karinganire, one of the dedicated youth, stated, We have requested officials to provide torches for us to use during night shifts, and we are still awaiting their response. Most of the checkpoints we operate are located in very remote areas, and having standard torches would facilitate our tracking and monitoring of illegal activities. Considering our suggestion would greatly improve our working conditions.