KAYONZA-Police, over the weekend, arrested at least 34 illegal miners in Rusave Cell of Murama Sector in Kayonza District after the latter engaged them in running battles.
The predawn police cordon and search operation were met with chaos after hundreds of illegal miners violently resisted arrest.
The Eastern Region Police Commander (RPC), ACP Sam Karemera, told The New Times that the operation was meant to bring order to the sector.
He said that illegal mining activities are conducted in a shambolic manner noting that miners were responsible for numerous criminal activities in the area.
“It is their long history of criminality that gave them the nerve to fight police officers on duty. We have apprehended ring leaders who will be prosecuted,” said Karemera, adding that the hunt would continue to nab those who escaped.
John Mugabo, the District Mayor, said that it was lamentable that illegal miners tried to fight the police.
He pointed out that most criminals were known drug addicts, who have been terrorising the community.
“Illegal mining and drug abuse are big issues in these sectors, fortunately though, many people don’t support the thugs. We want innocent residents to help us identify the criminals,” he said.
Philemon Hagenimana, a resident, admitted that many were involved in illegal activities, including the dangerous tin mining.
“You say illegal, we say legal,” said a 25-year-old illicit miner, who has spent the past eight years in Murama Sector mines. “It is illegal and deadly, but it is profitable”.
However, Nehemiah Twagirumwami, another resident, pointed an accusing finger at grassroots leaders, alleging that some cell leaders took bribes from illegal miners to keep their activities secret.
“Poor grassroots leadership is the sole cause of the problems we encounter...the corrupt Executive Secretary of this cell protects the criminals,” he accused.
“It is a sad reality... we live in a world of our own. You run the risk of being hacked to death by becoming a whistleblower”.