In 2011, Venant Gatera, 35, a resident of Muhika Cell of Gatore Sector in Kirehe District, was involved in cannabis trafficking from neighbouring countries.
For about two years in this illegal business, Gatera hardly achieved anything tangible, save for the sleepless nights and loss of money as the drugs are often seized.
“I spent two years messing up and putting my life in danger. I cannot recall how many times I was arrested, the money I lost buying cannabis, which on many occasions would be seized,” says Gatera.
The two years were a misery to my family, especially my wife who I beat up every night for boldly telling me to refrain from this act. She used to argue that we instead invest the money in a small business. I understood the values that my wife was standing for after I could not even afford to get what to eat, leave alone the family I had abandoned. ”
According to Gatera, at one point he survived an animal attack at night as he crossed River Akagera from Tanzania with sacks of narcotics.
Gatera, who has since denounced the act and followed the wife’s advice to start a small business, is among former drug abusers in Gatore, leading a campaign against the vice in the area. Their activities involve using their past bad experiences to sensitise the community about the dangers of drug abuse and trafficking.
Recently, while meeting the reformed drug dealers and residents of Gatore, AIP Gahigi Harerimana, the district community liaison officer of Kirehe, thanked them for the voluntary work.
He noted that Gatore is one of the sectors in the district that have high cases of drug-related crimes due to its location.
Gatore borders River Akagera, Karehero and Muhika lakes, which are mostly used as trafficking routes.
During the meeting, residents instituted a team of area residents to join former drug users, to monitor and fight drug trafficking, especially along the water bodies.
One of the residents, Sylvestre Hakizimana, said fighting drug abuse in the area is in their interest as parents because their children are the first victims if the dealers stay at large.
“Gatore being a transit route, it makes our children the first victims of drug abuse. So it remains our responsibility to stop it. By establishing an active team to break this vice, we will be breaking the supply chain for our children and community and others in other parts of the country where the drugs are taken,” said Hakizimana.