A strange and serendipitous find in Nyamasheke District Monday night it was. A Toyota Land Cruiser belonging to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) had overturned but Police who turned up at the accident scene were shocked to uncover 86 kilogrammes of cannabis suspected to have been smuggled into the country using the ill-fated vehicle.
Eugene Sibomana, the communication and public information associate at UNHCR in Kigali, told The New Times that the car in question had been leased to Africa Humanitarian Action (AHA) Rwanda, a non-profit organisation working on humanitarian aid and development activities.
Although a rare case – for huminitarian vehicles to be involved in drug trafficking –, Police have their alarm raised as authorities now suspect the Nyamasheke scandal might be an indication that drug traffickers have discovered new ways to evade the long arm of the law.
According to the Western Region Police spokesperson, Theobald Kanamugire, the incident involving the vehicle happened on Monday at around 23:30pm in Kadashya Village of Kanazi Cell in Ruharambuga Sector.
“The driver was speeding when he lost control and the vehicle overturned. The vehicle and the narcotics were discovered by the night patrol a few minutes after the incident,” Kanamugire said in a statement.
“Upon reaching the vehicle, Police found 86 kilogrammes but the driver had vanished into thin air. The exhibits have since been seized as investigations continue. Investigations are still underway to trace the driver or any other person connected to this criminal act,” said Kanamugire.
An employee of AHA, who could only identify herself as Olive, acknowledged in a telephone interview that the car was being used by the NGO.”
Most of the recent drug trafficking cases that Police have discovered involved public commuter buses and motorbikes.
Kanamugire warned drivers against facilitating drug trafficking and appealed to the general public to strengthen their role in fighting drug-related crimes.
It is understood that institutional and humanitarian cars are rarely stopped and checked on highways by Traffic Police. However, this incident might put such cars on the spot for facilitating drug trafficking, according to Sibomana.
“This incident has really affected us as an institution because Police announced that the car belongs to UNHCR yet it was being used by our partners. Nonetheless, drug trafficking is unacceptable no matter who has done it, and I think this will affect the trust of the Police, and cars which belong to humanitarian agencies,” Sibomana said.
Recent figures from Police indicate that drug trafficking in the country dropped by 1.4 per cent and this is largely attributed to police alertness to curb one of the so-called high impact crimes.
Since mid-July, Police arrested eight suspected drug traffickers in Kirehe and Nyabihu districts. Kirehe is labelled one of the major transit routes for drug traffickers especially cannabis.
By December, last year, Police had recorded more than 1,556 cases of drug abuse, which were forwarded to prosecution.