NYAGATARE – One of the most talked about challenges facing law enforcement authorities in the country presently is the fight against illicit drugs and brew, commonly known as Kanyanga.
Barely a month passes before police destroys several litres of kanyanga impounded from smugglers.
But the business has flourished despite the stance jointly mounted by police, other security organs, local leaders and the general public.
According to a report obtained from the Rwanda National Police, proliferation of drugs continues to be a burning issue.
A report from anti-narcotics department in the Rwanda National Police indicates that huge quantities of Kanyanga come from Uganda through porous borders before it is supplied to other parts of the country.
Police say there is a link between Kanyanga consumption and many cases of robbery and violent crimes. In addition, the illegal brew consumers often indulge in prostitution.
According to police, over 707, 771 litres of local brew were destroyed in a period of ten months, last year, with over 860 arrests.
The generally held view is that Kanyanga business is lucrative.
Residents who spoke to The New Times said that Kanyanga dealers consider the brew as their economic lifeline, and despite several arrests, they cannot simply quit the business.
“It is a lucrative business. People cannot simply quit it,” said one resident who gave his name only as Ilidephonse, a resident of Katabagemu Sector in Nyagatare District.
According to him, a litre of ‘Super’ Kanyanga, smuggled from Uganda, is sold at Rwf8, 000 while a litre of ‘regular’ Kanyanga goes for Rwf1, 500.
“If you successfully smuggle in about 50 litres of super Kanyanga, that is a massive Rwf400, 000 you take home. That’s why you see people always fighting with police,” he said.
Ilidephonse adds that the local brew has a wide market, not only in the Eastern Province, but in other parts of the country as well. “There is a huge market for Kanyanga across the province. People addicted to it are willing to part with lots of money to get it.”
An elderly woman in Kayonza District, who preferred anonymity in order to speak freely, confessed to dealing in kanyanga for a long time as her income earner.
“I have been involved in the sale of Kanyanga for the last 15 years. With this business, I got money to send my children to school and solved most of my family’s domestic needs. But I no longer sell it after I was arrested several times,” said the 60-year-old, a resident of Murundi Sector.
Local leaders involved
Stephen Gasore, a cell executive secretary of Bufunda Sector in Nyagatare District, intimated that local leaders, mostly at the village level, are involved in illegal sale and consumption of local brew.
“Most of them are arrested and later suspended from their duties,” he said.
Jean Damascene Habiyambere, a resident of Karama Sector, Nyagatare District, said grassroots leaders are aware of people dealing in the illegal liquor but decide to look away.
“There is a new policy by the police and other authorities to track local leaders who protect the dealers in the illicit brew within the sector. Despite several warnings by security and district officials against Kanyanga dealers, we regret why some elected leaders are the ones who protect these illegal dealers. They provide them the cover and, in turn, share the profits. We know most of them in our sector,” he added.
Kanyanga and illicit drugs are blamed for most domestic violence cases.
Police and health experts have both warned the public against Kanyanga and illicit drugs arguing they do not only cause health repercussions but also affect the victims economically.
Activists have also sounded alarm bells saying, if not checked, such illegal substances could jeopardise the country’s future since they are said to be rampant among the youth.