Rwanda is globally recognised as one of the least corrupt nations, according to various international reports, and among the best performers in Africa in fighting graft.
According to Assistant Commissioner of Police Jean Nepo Mbonyumuvunyi, commissioner for Inspectorate of Police Services and Ethics in Rwanda National Police (RNP), in Rwanda corruption is viewed as a “violation of human rights.”
The inspectorate is partly charged with fighting corruption both within RNP and in the general public domain.
“RNP looks at corruption in a bigger picture; the vice fuels injustice, inequality and deprives people of their right to a certain free service and slows down or affects service delivery, and fighting it with no leniency, is the responsibility of police and all Rwandans,” Mbonyumuvunyi says.
He was reacting to various incidents in which several people have been arrested either soliciting or giving bribes, and embezzlement.
Close to 400 civilians, majority of them drivers, have been arrested over the last three years in connection with attempts to bribe police officers to acquire illegal services. At least 117 were arrested in 2014 and 224 in 2015.
“Fighting corruption has no timeframe or boundaries, and is not specific to one institution; this malpractice manifests in various ways such as demanding something in return for a legally free service, trying to buy an illegal service or even nepotism. We have to double our efforts collectively each day by reporting those who trade services for money or demand something in exchange for a free service,” he said.
“We are guided by the national policy of zero tolerance to corruption and we continuously conduct awareness campaigns about corruption as well as educating both the public and our officers,” he noted.
The law on corruption and related offences, especially in its articles 10 to 27, provides for penalties including a term of imprisonment ranging from two to five years and fines depending on the nature and circumstances under which the offence was committed.
“Besides the skills given to police officers at the point they are joining the force, we also conduct refresher courses where we remind them of the consequences of taking bribes and their role in fighting it; it is a tradition in RNP that anyone caught in such malpractice will be dismissed from the force,” he said.
Police statistics indicate that 170 police officers were arrested in 2014 in graft-related crimes and 78 others in 2015.
At least 190 officers implicated in corruption have been dismissed with disgrace from the force over the years.
Graft, Mbonyumuvunyi said, is sometimes hard to identify since it’s done in secrecy.”
“The police internal stringent measures against corruption are paying off in a sense that despite the isolated cases, which in most cases come to light and punitive measures taken, we are seeing officers on highways, police stations and even mechanical inspection services standing bold to refuse bribes and arresting those who attempt to seduce them with offers.”
Some of the many officers that have stood up against corruption include Corporal Frederic Mbonyinkindi, from Kirehe Police station, who intercepted a driver who had overloaded.
“He pleaded that I should not given him a ticket and, in the process, he attempted to bribe me with Rwf10, 000. I decided to arrest him and handed him over for prosecution,” said Mbonyinkindi, referring to an incident that happened recently.
This wasn’t the first time someone attempted to bribe Mbonyinkindi. In 2013, a certain driver who hadn’t insured his vehicle was involved in an accident and attempted to bribe Mbonyinkindi so as not to impound his vehicle.
“He wanted to exchange the car with another that had insurance, and on offering me a bribe so that I facilitate the exchange, I arrested him,” said Mbonyinkindi.
His colleague, Police Constable Thomas Ndayisenga, from the Motor vehicle inspection centre, has also had an encounter with wrongdoers who attempted to bribe him as means of acquiring an inspection certificate that their vehicles did not qualify for.
“There have been several attempts of people trying to acquire the inspection certificate through some improper channels, including trying to bribe us but we always apprehend them, and have them prosecuted,” he said.
Ndayisenga is among the police officers that RNP recently recognised for standing up against corruption.
In March, 13 people were arrested in the City of Kigali for either posing as supposed police brokers for vehicle mechanical inspection services, or attempting to bribe officers to unlawfully acquire mechanical inspection services.
Sergeant Vestine Abijuru and Corporal Dorothy Uwizeye, from Gikondo Police station, are among the female police officers that have also apprehended several people who attempted to bribe them.
“Corruption does not only affect the economy and the welfare of the people, but it also discourages donors and destroys investor confidence, strangling development, progress and prosperity,” said ACP Mbonyumuvunyi.
“By understanding corruption’s full impact and seeing it through the eyes of its effects, we are creating e new weapons to combat it, and that’s why we have put in place all necessary measures, including partnering with other institutions like the Office of Ombudsman and Transparency International, and setting up a toll-free line – 997 – for the public to easily report graft.”