It’s Tuesday, 10:27am. Jean-Claude Nzabonimpa (not real name), accompanied by a woman only identified as Maria, arrives at Gikomero Police Station in Gasabo District, where they are received by the station commander, who guides them to the office of the judicial police officer.
Nzabonimpa and Maria’s urgency was to report a crime.
Apparently, the 24-year-old university student, while running an errand earlier, witnessed an incident related to gender-based violence in Twina Village of Murambi Cell. Maria was being assaulted.
According to Nzabonimpa, the victim was not willing to report the crime. On her part, Maria says she “wasn’t sure of what to do” since the abuser was her husband.
Nzabonimpa’s advice opened Maria’s eyes to report the repeated assault.
“I told her this is a crime and a violation of human rights that shouldn’t go unreported, so I took the initiative to accompany her to the police station for appropriate action to be taken, especially now that we have a station in the vicinity,” Nzabonimpa said.
Gikomero, with a population of 18,400, is one of the 15 sectors in Gasabo that previously had no police station, with residents having to brave distances to the nearest station either in Ndera, Rusororo or Kabuga.
Today, all the sectors of Gasabo have a police station, most them, including Gikomero, constructed out of financial contributions and manpower by the community.
Gasabo covers 58.2 per cent of the City of Kigali.
“It was hectic, costly and affecting our living ways. To think that you have to spend almost the whole day if you want any service from a police station was our biggest challenge,” says Ancilla Gasengayire, 54.
Indeed, when the idea came up in a community meeting to construct their own police station, Gasengayire and her arts and craft association of at least 40 women were among those who contributed both financially and physically.
The fully-fledged Gikomero Police Station was inaugurated in June last year. Formerly a dilapidated structure, residents contributed Rwf9.8 million to refurbish it. It has an anti-GBV room, two separate detention facilities to accommodate both male and female suspects, operation and control rooms.
Cyprien Hakizimana, another resident, says some people would even give up reporting injustices due to the long distance.
“Gikomero was like a hub for drug dealers and distillers of illicit drinks, especially in Murambi Cell,” says Hakizimana.
“We were having many crimes, today; we are celebrating the safety and security we are enjoying which we attribute to Police. It’s not 100 per cent, but there is sense of fear to commit a crime, night patrols have been harnessed, we now have Irondo patrol vehicle and work with our police station on a daily basis in anti-crime awareness activities,” he narrates.
According to Valens Muhabwa, the Gasbo District Police Commander, Gikomero has since turned from one of the places with high crimes to a sector with least crimes.
Theft, robbery in wee hours, assault, domestic and gender based violence, were the order of the day in the area prior to establishing the police station.
“It was like the hub of drug dealers and distillers of illicit brew that would be distributed to other parts of Gasabo and City of Kigali, and this is partly why there were many crimes around,” says the DPC.
“When you look at the current status of safety, which has extremely improved, it’s almost entirely the role of the people, right from the idea and constructing their police station, reporting drug dealers and other criminals, awareness campaigns and tightening community night patrols.”
The station, like others across the country, is connected to online services, which eases forwarding of case files.
In January last year, residents of Rusebeya Sector in Rutsiro District constructed a police station, worth Rwf27.5 million.
Later in June, residents of Gisozi Sector, also in Gasabo, followed suit and constructed a Police station valued at over Rwf23 million as part of their community policing initiative to support security efforts in the area.
In 2014, four police stations, valued at Rwf70 million, were inaugurated in the sectors of Gahara, Mahama, Mpanga and Kigarama in Kirehe District.
In February this year, residents of Gatsibo District contributed over Rwf87 million, and constructed ten police stations.
“Service delivery is a national policy, and establishing police stations in all the 416 sectors across the country is in that line,” says Theos Badege, the Rwanda National Police (RNP) spokesperson.
Close to 400 sectors have police stations currently, up from 69 stations in 2013.
“These stations constructed by the people epitomise the real meaning of community policing and inclusive policing, and have impacted on their lives through improved safety, arrest of suspects and timely processing of case files, and easy access to police services,” Badege said.
“This kind of bond in security and general development activities explains why the people believe and trust their police, and why Rwanda is ranked among the safest countries in the world. This is the same ideal that is driving the concept of ‘crime-free village.’”