Residents of Nyagatare District have raised concerns over Jimson weed plant, whose seeds, they say, acts as a narcotic and its use is spreading among school children.
The plant known as Rwiziringa in Kinyarwanda also has a nickname, “Trente-six oiseaux” (Thirty-six birds), because those who use it become delusional.
“Children trick each other that if they ate Rwiziringa they would become intelligent and do well in school, but once they do, the act crazy,” said David Mutesa, 66, a resident from Nyagatare III Village, Nyagatare Cell, Nyagatare Sector.
“I once found five young people at the hospital in just one day after eating this plant. The next day, I found another one. I have witnessed this more than five times. It saddens me because some parents have no idea what the tree looks like”.
Jimsonweed plant known as ‘Rwiziringa’.
What concerns Mutesa more is the fact that the tree is everywhere in the wild, and if it is not eradicated, more people could fall victims. He suggested that starting from the grassroots, people should be sensitized and help uproot the plant.
“Because when it becomes fully grown and dries, the seeds fall off and germinate. Uprooting them while they are still green can eventually eliminate the plant,” he said.
Johnson Munana, another resident, concurs on the dangers of the plant.
“Most people in our town only came to know about it when students at a school known as Exodus became mentally disturbed after eating the plant. That is when they realized that it was a drug,” he said.
David Mutesa, resident from Nyagatare III Village, Nyagatare Cell, Nyagatare Sector, speaking of a concern of the plant known as 'Rwiziringa'.
WHAT DOCTOR SAYS
Maj. Dr Ernest Munyemana, Director General of Nyagatare Hospital, told The New Times that it had been four months since the last case involving Jimson weed was recorded. That is when they started a campaign to urge residents and schools to avoid using the dangerous plant, especially around Mirama and Karangazi where the cases were more prevalent.
“It seems the sensitisation campaign had an impact,” he added.
Munyemana confirmed that once the seeds of the plant are well processed, they can make a painkiller for the central nerve system.
The doctor said that children who consume it become excited and hallucinate.
“They were brought to the hospital looking as if they were mentally disturbed. We stabilized them and then discharged them”.
Speaking in Nyagatare on Tuesday during the provincial launch of hygiene and security campaign themed “Keep Rwanda clean, green and safe”, Eastern Province Governor Fred Mufulukye, called on schools to fight the dangerous plant, since it is used to occur in schools because they were most affected.”
“For me, that plant is a drug; we should fight against it like we do other types of illicit drugs,” he added.