KIGALI - A trigger-happy policeman on Monday evening shot dead a hawker in Nyabugogo, a commercial Kigali City suburb.
The hawker, only identified as Mathias, was shot after the policeman fired twice at a group of hawkers whose business is considered illegal on Kigali streets.
Yesterday, Police Spokesman Inspector Willy Marcel Higiro, identified the policeman who shot the hawker only as Emmanuel.
Eyewitnesses said that Mathias, believed to have been in his early 20s and hailing from Gitarama in the Southern Province, was selling such small items as puff-holders, combs and wallets.
By the time The New Times reached at the scene of the shooting at around 7:20pm, Mathias’ body was still lying on the ground. A group of policemen was preparing to put the body on their car to take it to Kigali Central University Hospital (CHUK).
Hawkers, shop-owners and pedestrians were equally visibly shocked after the incident. On seeing our reporter and photographer, desperate hawkers mobbed their vehicle and pleaded that the incident be covered. “Save us and take the story to higher authorities. Let the President also know about our plight at the hands of police,” one of them shouted on seeing The New Times’ team.
Eyewitnesses said that the killer and three other policemen disembarked from a police patrol car, and started chasing hawkers, who in turn started hurling stones at the plain-clothed cops.
The stone-hurling hawkers, eyewitnesses said, prompted one of the policemen (Emmanuel) to shoot at them using a pistol, and killing Mathias with his second gunshot.
Jean de Dieu Rukundo, a shoe vendor in the area, said that the four policemen immediately got into their car and drove off.
He said that the angry mob was calmed by another team of policemen and Local Defence Personnel that arrived shortly after. The enraged Rukundo accused policemen of intimidating, and now killing their colleagues, “as if vending is a sin.”
“We have no money to rent permanent shops, but we are now worried about our lives now that they are even shooting to kill,” he said.
Hawkers also said that prior to Mathias’ killing, another vendor had been badly beaten up by the same policemen.
The policemen at the scene refused The New Times’ photographer George Barya from taking pictures.
Barya, who a fortnight ago was beaten up by another police officer Epimaque Kaberuka for photographing him while confiscating hawkers’ property near Remera Taxi Park, was forced by policemen at the scene to delete the pictures he had taken following Monday’s murder incident.
The Central Region Police Commander, Assistant Commissioner George Rumanzi, said yesterday that police had launched investigations into the incident.
He added that the policeman who shot Mathias had been temporarily dismissed from duty pending further investigations.
Rumanzi said there were reports that hawkers had provoked policemen by stoning them, adding that the law gives police personnel to use their arms to defend themselves or other people’s lives. “There are specific cases when they (police personnel) can use their arms, but it all depends of the situation at hand,” he said.