Community policing: Holding heads high against drugs

Trafficking, sell and use of narcotic drugs remain a serious global problem, especially effecting the young generation. Rwanda is no exception.

According to research, substance abuse can simply be defined as a pattern of harmful use of any substance for mood-altering purposes that give rise to both physical and psychological dependence. Dependence results in mental, emotional, biological or physical, social and economic instability. The effects of substance abuse on an individual form the basis of its increasing effects on society. This is a major danger of abuse of narcotic substances.

Equally, studies show that people who start drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics. Young people, who use alcohol or drugs, are also three times more likely to get involved in violent crimes.

Combating the vice is, therefore, a general guidance and a priority. During Umushyikirano 2017, President Paul Kagame, said: “The issue of drugs is an epidemic across the world that we have to take seriously. We cannot allow our youth to go to waste.”

In the last five years, Rwanda National Police (RNP) recorded 18,383 cases related to narcotic drugs. In 2017 alone, Police recorded about 4470 cases constituting 18 per cent of all crimes registered during the same year.

More than 4100 drug dealers, 3600 of them males, were also arrested in 2017 with those aged between 18 and 35 years accounting for 71 per cent.

Awareness and education

These serious concerns calls for urgent stringent measures largely focused on implementing national efforts designed to address the problem.

It is very important that we educate and warn the young people about drug use and encourage them to stand strong against peer and adult pressure.

In December last year, RNP alongside the ministries of Health, Local Government and Youth, launched a countrywide campaign against narcotic drugs, a move aimed at both breaking the chains of supply and to destroy the local market.

The ongoing campaign targets schools, communities, religions groups, grassroots leaders, reformed drug traffickers and rehabilitated addicts, those in the hospitality and service sector, and the private sector in general.

Indeed, these efforts are massively paying off. Firstly, knowing major routes; secondly, methods used; thirdly, identifying drug traffickers; and fourthly, identifying addicted young people, who are rehabilitated and given a future through vocational training.

Rehabilitated drug addicts in the campaign against drugs.

Through this community policing bond, we have been able to know the tricks traffickers use; from swimming through water bodies, wrapping them around the body, others stashing them in luggage, pumpkins and bicycle tyres, women carrying them at the back to look like they are carrying babies or on stomach as if they are pregnant or even in their veils; to hiring vehicles and motorcycles to ferry them especially at night.

Major transit routes like Burera, Rubavu, Rusizi, Kirehe, Gicumbi and Nyagatare have also been mapped, and thus awareness and operation efforts have been reinforced to cut off supply.

Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Skills Development Centre (IRVSDC), Gitagata rehabilitation centre and the ongoing construction of Nyamagabe Rehabilitation centre in addiction to other rehabilitation services at Huye Isange Rehabilitation Centre and Neuro-psychiatric Hospital of Ndera, among others, are equally serving the purpose in this case.

These rehabilitation centres supplement the efforts of preventing new users and killing the local market.

And indeed, the about 13, 000 addicted youth aged between 18 and 35, rehabilitated and completely healed since 2012, equipped with vocational skills and engaged in varied income-generating activities, is a lively example that the affected young people can once again be clean and transformed into a labourforce.

According to Aime Bosenibamwe, the coordinator for National Rehabilitation Services, the Government is looking at “mass rehabilitation” of addicts as one of the effective ways to support efforts to kill the illicit drugs market.

The national preventive measures also goes with addressing the concern of peer pressure and other factors that can influence the abuse of drugs among youths namely; weak parental control and domestic conflicts that drive children to streets as well as revision of laws.

Health, economic implications

The minister for Health, Dr. Diane Gashumba, said that some cases of heart, liver, kidney and mental problems have been attributed to abuse of narcotic drugs.

According to statistics by Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), between 2010 and 2015, the Neuro-psychiatric Hospital of Ndera received 1,432 patients with mental illness caused by use of drugs.

The number increased to 2804 in 2016 but recorded a slight decrease to 1960 last year. Huye Isange Rehabilitation Centre received 209 cases, last year.

Community Policing/Cooperation

Understanding that the issue of narcotic drugs is largely cross-border in nature, we have also made it part of our local and bilateral cooperation. We have signed Memorandum of Understanding with all districts, partly to work together in community policing efforts against drugs.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) Emmanuel K. Gasana, during the campaign against drugs in Rubavu, said: “We are here to ensure that we the youth are protected against drugs, and to enforce the law… There is redline against narcotic drugs, and you are part of the force to report everyone still involved to face justice.”

The over 74, 000 members of Community Policing Committees (CPCs), 260, 000 members of Rwanda Youth Volunteers in Community Policing (RYVCP), over 2, 000 anti-crime clubs and other groups like artistes, school children using different talents like poems and the general public, have been instrumental in raising awareness, identifying and facilitating successful arrests of drug dealers through information sharing.

Equally, cross-border cooperation specifically with neighboring countries where the substances are reportedly trafficked from defines well joint operations against the vice. The MoU with Tanzania Police Force (TPF) signed in 2012, for example, specifies joint operations to dismantle cannabis plantations, as well as fight drug traffickers and smugglers, among others. As a result, these joint operations by the marine forces from both sides have been going on especially in River Kagera. In this case, RNP provided a marine boat, which is facilitating the joint operations.

The threat of drugs is real. However, the increase in arresting dealers and seizing these drugs is a combination of many factors that are all hinged on community policing. The spirit of responsiveness both individually and collectively is seen and strengthened as an effective remedy through joint awareness and information sharing.

Equally, cross-border cooperation specifically with neighboring countries where the substances are reportedly trafficked from defines well joint operations against the vice. The MoU with Tanzania Police Force (TPF) signed in 2012, for example, specifies joint operations to dismantle cannabis plantations, as well as fight drug traffickers and smugglers, among others. As a result, these joint operations by the marine forces from both sides have been going on especially in River Kagera. In this case, RNP provided a marine boat, which is facilitating the joint operations.

The threat of drugs is real. However, the increase in arresting dealers and seizing these drugs is a combination of many factors that are all hinged on community policing. The spirit of responsiveness both individually and collectively is seen and strengthened as an effective remedy through joint awareness and information sharing.

ADVERTISEMENT