Police have warned that it will pursue and bring to justice anyone suspected of committing hate crimes during the upcoming weeklong official commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner of Police Theos Badege sounded the warning during an interview with The New Times yesterday, ahead of tomorrow’s 23rd anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, dubbed Kwibuka23.
Such crimes tend to spike during such commemoration period, with offenders often targeting Genocide survivors and their livestock.
ACP Badege said that Rwandans who have not embraced the change in attitude brought about by the national reconciliation process should seek further help to rid themselves of any negative ideologies before they are tempted to commit any hate crime.
“My advice to those that are more likely to commit hate crimes is that they should urgently seek help. It is in their interest to change as fast as possible. They can join reconciliation programmes and try to address whatever issue they may have,” he said.
Badege added: “It is a loss for the country to imprison someone; that is not our intention, but I must warn such elements that they will be caught and face justice.”
He said that national reconciliation efforts and sensitisation programmes have over the years created a positive impact because there has been a significant reduction in such cases over the years.
What remains now are isolated cases, he said.
Suspects arrested in cow hacking
Badege’s warning comes in the wake of this week’s brutal attacks on several cows belonging to vulnerable Genocide survivors in different parts of the country, including one belonging to one Ferdinand Mukurira of Kigarama Sector in Kicukiro District.
Mukurira’s cow, which he received under the government-backed Girinka programme, was hacked several times on the neck leaving it for dead.
Badege said that although two suspects have so far been arrested, investigations were still ongoing.
He declined to link the incidents to genocide ideology insisting investigations were still ongoing.
“The investigation team is active on the case and the preliminary investigation is yet to give us a conclusion about what the intention was. Animal cruelty is a crime in Rwanda and article 436 of the Penal Code is clear about that,” he said.
The executive secretary of Ibuka, Naphtal Ahoshakiye, said that more than 20 years since the end of the Genocide against the Tutsi, genocide ideology is still a challenge, both locally and internationally.
“You would think that considering that every Rwandan today has equal access to opportunity and to government services, such kind of inhuman actions should be a thing of the past but, even though such cases have reduced, they still manifest from time to time,” he told The New Times.
Ahoshakiye called for a heavy punishment for those found guilty of such hate crimes so that it can set an example for anyone else who may have the same motives.
Preparations on course
ACP Badege said the preparations to have an incident-free Genocide commemoration period were going on smoothly with different security organisations and local administrative authorities joining in to make sure everything goes according to plan.
“Generally, there is security but we have to even improve further during this period. All the planned activities across the country should be carried out without issues. We are going to divide the responsibilities within the country’s security organs.”
He said that physical presence of security personnel in most areas will be boosted and encouraged anyone who might see any suspicious activity or have information that they deem important to report it.
“We have many telephone numbers that members of the public can call and we always advise people to have a phone number of the nearest Police office but if you call 112, you are able to be connected to the nearest Police office. We are almost in all the sectors and you will get the help that you need. It’s important to provide information but it is even more important to provide it on time,” he said.
The Police spokesperson called on Rwandans to give the Genocide commemoration period the special attention that it deserves through behaving appropriately and supporting survivors.
“This is a special period and we are required to behave in a special manner. No entertainment of any sort is welcome and the various sports disciplines championships will be on a break. People should avoid hate speech and other activities that may psychologically afflict a survivor. If every Rwandan could behave like someone in mourning, then we would even invest less in security,” he said.
Badege reassured survivors of their security but urged them to remain vigilant, like everyone else.
“Survivors should feel secure but, like everyone else, shouldn’t take their security for granted, should they have any suspicions about anything, they should immediately report it to the nearest authorities,” he said.
He also called for more sensitisation against hate speech and crimes.
This year, the official commemoration day events will be held at the village level across the country, while a flame lighting ceremony will also be held at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Gisozi.
Later that day, thousands of youths are expected to take part in the annual ‘Walk to Remember’ that will see mourners walk from the Parliamentary Buildings to the Amahoro National Stadium where an evening vigil will subsequently take place.
This year’s Genocide commemoration will be held under theme, Remember the Genocide against the Tutsi – Fight Genocide Ideology – Build on Our Progress