Rwandans must take their security for granted

President Paul Kagame is known to say things that are counterintuitive.

Perhaps one of the most counterintuitive things he has ever said was during the cadet pass out ceremony at Gishari Police Training School; “Rwandans must be able to take their security and safety for granted. It’s a must and you the Police have been trained to ensure that that is the case,” he told the youthful graduates on a sunny bright day in May 2015.

I had to read that more than once before coming to terms with the idea that it wasn’t a typo meant to say that Rwandans shouldn’t take their security for granted.

But I should have known better because the success of the post Genocide period is built on counter-intuitiveness, the unconventional methods that include drawing from Rwanda’s traditions for home-grown solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing society, especially at the community level.

Few would discount the kind of intractable challenges that, for instance, Imihigo, Abunzi, and particularly Gacaca have helped to resolve.

Rwanda’s national development philosophy aims to ensure that communities become a source of the solutions to the most pressing challenges they face.

This is a shift in mentality intended to inculcate a sense of resourcefulness and ingenuity that drives tailor-made innovations that rely on home-grown solutions to drive the transformation of society where there is greater ownership for sustainable development.

Just as the focus for pro-poor national development has evolved along different medium term initiatives that are commonly known as EDPRS, the community policing strategy has also evolved in order to respond to the changing dynamics across crime areas, particularly the emerging crimes that are more sophisticated, cross-border, and organized in nature.

In other words, in terms of both national development and national security, the ability to evolve means remaining in touch, relevant and responsive to the quickly shifting national and global demands.

As has been the post genocide story, nothing is done for the people without the people. In the post genocide period this intent has been implemented through the community policing philosophy – again, in line with the ideological imperative of citizen-centred pro-poor development.

It has taken the security forces – RDF and RNP – to the people through citizen outreach and community policing programmes that focus on improving the material wellbeing of Rwandans, which in their lingo they like to call human security.

Most of us have heard of Army Week or Police Week. In my view, these are strategies for operationalizing the leadership intent: to build a force that ensures that Rwandans take their security for granted.

Exchanging gifts

So, why is the police building office premises for local administration? It’s counterintuitive. But it’s meant to implement the leadership intent. Over the years police has been donating cows to ordinary people across the country.

 Last year it donated more than 3400 solar panels to communities that are helping the police the most by preventing crimes by reporting them--the Crime Free Model Villages that police hopes to replicate across the country.

This year the police has been involved in constructing Mudugudu office premises in order to strengthen the organisational capacity of leadership at the grassroots level where the practice of community policing philosophy is most felt, where the “rubber meets the road.”  

Indeed, studies show that effective local administration is essential in mobilizing human and material resources for purposeful endeavours of community development and in augmenting their own security including by revealing timely information to law enforcement agencies.

In so doing, “the police become the community and the community becomes the police.” In turn, this creates a multiplier effect that would otherwise be a serious challenge for law enforcement agencies: prevention is less costly and leads to sustainable outcomes.

 But it’s not one way love. It’s mutual. One of the communities recently donated a police station to the police. So, it’s Kumbaya between the police and the communities. Will it last? It depends.

If, on top of solar panels, houses constructed for the disadvantaged, heifer, roads linking communities, all these build a sense of responsiveness, and the police is able to act swiftly on information provided by community members by reducing the response rate: intervene on time to prevent the crime from happening or arrest the suspect where the crime has already taken place.

This would truly make the relationship reciprocal. And these tend to last.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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