‘The school of learning’ as prisons are commonly referred to are set to be relocated and improved in the country. A report compiled by the senate Commission in-charge of Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation on July 23, indicates that the conditions of prisons in Rwanda do not meet the required standards.
“The prisons are overcrowded, the total number of inmates (prisoners) in all prisons in Rwanda at the time of the report was 97, 506 while the total capacity of all prisons is supposed to be 35, 970,” the report reads in part. For example, Kibungo Prison had at the time of the commission’s visit about 4,126 instead of 700 prisoners.
This worsens the conditions of the prisoners in the way that the sleeping situations are extremely ghastly as well as unhygienic. The prisoners are stressed because of limited space in prisons.
Senator Valens Munyabagisha, the president of the commission said that some inmates spend the whole night without sleeping, a condition that violates their personal rights.
“Some of the prisons are old and leaking especially those built during the colonial era and there is need to improve their state,” Munyabagisha said.
Munyabagisha again explained that prison workers are not paid appropriate salaries like other government employees, yet they work even harder to contain daily challenges.
“If you’re not paid in equivalent to the work you are doing, the morale to smooth running of the activities within the prison becomes low,” Munyabagisha stated.
Munyabagisha said most of the employees earn between Frw10, 000 and Frw20, 000 per month and their salaries have not been increased for over a long time.
Senator Augustine Iyamuremye explained that some prisons have a problem of sewage that has even become a problem to the surrounding areas and questioned whether the affected people have the right to ask concerned authorities for a solution citing the example of people living in the neighbourhood of Kimironko Prison.
“Many areas surrounded by these prisons are polluted with the unpleasant odour from these sewage systems, thus subjecting people of these areas to abdominal problems,” Iyamuremye said.
Senator Agnes Mukabaranga expressed dissatisfaction over the way prisoners in the police disciplinary unit in Kibungo are treated.
Inmates bring in their mattresses
The report indicates that some of the inmates (prisoners) bring their own mattresses and depend on their little money for daily bread.
Mukabaranga further expressed discomfort over putting prisoners who have committed simple crimes together with those who committed capital offences.
“If prisoners with minor offences are confined with those who committed serious crimes, those who went in with little mental damage become more spoiled than they went in through the human learning processes,” Mukabaranga said.
The senators also revealed that some prisons are located on small plots of land, a condition which makes it difficult for prisoners to carryout development activities. This makes them dull and redundant most of the time thus hindering skill development among prisoners.
As a result, prisoners released from prisons after serving their sentences become a burden to the society because they lack skills and ability to perform different activities.
Previously, the Rwandan government was to relocate of Kigali Central Prison commonly known as “1930” from Kigali City to Butamwa in Nyarugenge District.
According to the minister for Internal Security, Sheikh Musa Fazil Harerimana, the ministry is undertaking a campaign based on the relocation of prisons within Kigali City centre and its municipals.
Harerimana explained that the ministry is working hard to address all the problems that are experienced in some of the prisons.
He said that the government has set aside Frw23 million to pay salary arrears for the prison workers and promised that another Frw20 million has been budgeted for those that would still have arrears next year.
Harerimana says that the ministry is planning to reallocate some prisons to other areas as one of the ways of improving the conditions of prisoners.
“The new prisons will separate inmates according to their charges and will be given counselling according to the kind of charges committed,” Harerimana said.
Closure of Nyanza Prison
The minister said that Nyanza Prison will be closed before the year ends and inmates will be relocated to other prisons centres.
He said that Social Security Fund has requested for that land on which the prison is situated to enable other development activities in the area to take place.
The new prisons will have biogas to solve the problem of power and Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) is fixing the biogas.
He further said that Remera Prison in Kimironko will be relocated to the outskirts of Kigali City. The Kigali Central Prison will be demolished and the land will be sold to private developers.
“Nyarugenge District provided 800 hectares of land to facilitate the relocation of the prisons, the minister said. He stated that the government through that relocation will be in a good position to engage prisoners in productive activities including agriculture.
The Remera Prison currently can host over 10,000 prisoners and the new Kigali Prison will host 15,000 inmates. Remera Prison will be reverted to a juvenile centre capable of hosting at least 1,000 convicted juveniles.
The arrangement stated is that the new facility would cost over Frw6 billion but they are targeting to cut the costs by using inmates’ services (prisoners) in the construction and relocation processes, which would be effective next year.
The prison will be sub divided in three wings; one to host women, another for children and the last one for men. Other plans include state-of-the-art executive cells for the case of foreigners arrested in Rwanda and in case they need to be isolated.
The minister revealed that the judiciary has of recent been recognised internationally and the country may be asked to host international prisoners as it is the case for Mali, which is detaining Rwanda Genocide convicts.
The construction of the new prison will start from a block that will serve as a transit centre for suspects from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) during the course of their trial, as their designated prison is the newly constructed at Mpanga in Southern Province.
This transit centre will be turned into prisons administrative offices after the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda suspects’ trials has been accomplished.
Minister Harerimana says that they have planned to create production centres in the prisons of Karongi, Ngarama, and Lilima to enable the prisoners become developmental in work activities thus contributing to the national economy.
Harerimana explained that the initiative is meant to solve the problem of food shortage in prisons as inmates will be able to produce for their own.
The minister also said that they will collaborate with the Kigali City Council to source for real estate developers who will buy the current premises, with the expectations of pooling over a billion francs.
Muhima Police Headquarters sold
In another development, the opposite area to the ‘1930’ Prison, which is currently accommodating the Muhima Police Headquarters, has also been sold to private developers.
The campaign of refurbishing national prisons to suit international standards started with the Mpanga Prison which has been approved by officials at ICTR, and it has the capacity to host 7,500 inmates.
“Our main objective as envisaged in the Vision 2020 is to cut down the number of prisons in the country. Currently, the statistics show that there are 16 prisoners in one prison per province,” the minister said.
The minister said that after streamlining the prisons department, the next will be police. A survey by senators is to be carried out after six months to find out whether the Ministry has improved the conditions of prisons.