A judge at Ngoma Intermediate Court on Thursday sentenced six men to five years after they were convicted for poaching from Akagera National Park in Kayonza District.
They were all arrested late last month and they pleaded guilty for poaching activities from the country’s largest park.
During their arraignment a week back, they pleaded guilty of killing different game from the park, including a buffalo, and antelopes in the park.
Black rhinos were only reintroduced into the park last year ten years after they were said to have been extinct, mainly due to human activity.
Following this, court handed each of the six men a five-year sentence and ordered each to pay a fine of Rwf5,000,000.
The convicts are; Anania Harelimana, Jean Claude Mvukiyehe, Jean Claude Ndagijimana, Nzabandora, Jean Pierre Rulinda and Ndabikunze Nyakarundi.
Two of them are from Ngoma District while four hail from Kayonza District.
The proceedings were held in an open court in Cyarubare Cell of Kabare Sector – neighbouring the park – from where the poachers were arrested in October in an operation jointly conducted between park rangers and other security organs.
The poachers said they had disabled the electric fence that surrounds the park to gain access to the park where they laid their traps and later used machetes to kill the trapped animals.
At the time, the prosecution had called for a ten-year sentence and a Rwf5m fine citing the gravity of the crime they stood accused of and the implication their actions have on the country’s economy.
Meanwhile, two other co-accused, Jean de Dieu Dusabe and Ahizangeza Muyango, were cleared of the charges after the judges ascertained that they did not have a role in killing the animals.
On his release, Muyango declared that he had learned a lesson after spending two weeks in custody during the investigation process.
“I am glad I have been set free, I will never do it again,” he said, “poachers should not ever try to sneak into the park,” he said, adding that he never knew the perimeter of the park is fitted with CCTV cameras that are monitoring those trying to illegally access it.
Besides thanking the judiciary for expeditiously handling the trial, residents around the park also welcomed the idea of bringing the hearings closer to them so that those with intentions to poach from the park can learn first-hand the consequences that await anyone that will attempt to do the same.
As a way of encouraging communities neighbouring the park to join conservation efforts, the Government introduced a scheme whereby 10 per cent of proceeds from tourism is injected in development initiatives in these communities.