I published an article several months ago in The New Times about the warm reception I received from Rwanda as an American volunteer and how the people have so graciously welcomed me into this country. However, I have had a string of what some might call “bad luck” in the past few months, including a bout of sickness, a minor car accident, and most recently a significant theft from my house.
The latter caused all of my Rwandan friends to immediately apologize, as they seem to feel personally responsible for this incident because it happened in their country.
I just laughed and responded that the very same thing happened all the time in the United States. In fact, it can happen anywhere in the world, but the difference rests in the way these cases are dealt with.
Nonetheless, I want to share this story. The incident happened a couple weeks ago, when we awoke in the morning and discovered that our house in Musanze, which accommodates seven American volunteers, had been robbed during the night.
Significant amounts of electronics were stolen, including most of our laptop computers. Of course we were upset about losing our computers, but the real price was losing years of pictures, documents and classes that we had stored on our computers.
Immediately the Musanze police were at our house to perform a thorough investigation of the evidence and report the stolen goods. I later learned just how thorough that investigation was carried out, including any possible suspect taken in for questioning and tips sent to the nearby border patrols.
I all but gave up hope after a couple of days, assuming that the computers had immediately been cleared of all identifying information and sold in a neighboring country.
Exactly one week later, we received a tip that the computers had been sighted in Gisenyi, still intact and very likely retrievable.
So we set off on an adventure with an undercover policeman and the Regional Police Commander in the Northern Province to recover the stolen possessions. The Musanze and Gisenyi police forces worked diligently to make sure the mission was successful.
To my surprise and excitement, two of our computers were returned that very day and the rest were hand delivered by the Commander two days later. Even the less significant items, such as flash drives, phone chargers, and ink pens, were given back to us.
I share this primarily to commend the Rwandan police forces and the attention they devoted to this case. From the time that we reported the break-in, we were contacted nearly every day to give an update regarding latest information.
As we had given up hope of recovering anything at all, they took it as their personal responsibility to make sure the case was solved. I can assure you that this same case would not be treated so seriously in America.
It is not that we don’t have good policemen in the US, but they would not be so concerned about a few meager electronic devices. In fact, a couple of years ago my car was broken into, in which two windows were busted out and the contents in my car were emptied.
When the policeman came to make the report, he told me that there was really nothing that could be done if they caught the perpetrator that very night because the local jails were overcrowded and the theft was considered a minor offense.
I was stunned that one could get away with such an offense so easily, especially in a country that claims to have a fair justice system.
My experience in Rwanda was quite different. The police demonstrated the utmost concern and took their job seriously to insure that all of our belongings were returned.
The Regional Police Commander in the Northern District, Rogers Rutikanga, exhibited great professionalism, genuine concern, and overall character in our dealings with him.
An investigation of the details is still underway, and we have been assured that they will not rest the case until justice is implemented.
Some may say that I have had “bad luck” in the few short months I have been here, but I consider it just the opposite. My luck has actually turned out to be quite good.
Not just because our computers were miraculously returned untouched, but also to have witnessed firsthand the hard-working efforts and integrity of the Rwandan defense system, a system that appears to be fair, efficient, and authentically concerned.
Anna Reed is a teacher at Sonrise High School, Musanze