New Year message to the Police Chief

Madam, you did a great job over the festivities, hardly any crimes were committed, and the Traffic Police averted the usual carnage on our roads at this time of the year. All revellers who hit Kigali streets seeking to make merry during the festive season had to do so in a sober state or on foot. The police were out in full force. They set “ambushes” on all axes leading in and out of neighbourhoods to crack down on over-exited and often drunk drivers.
Acting Commissioner General of Police, Mary Gahonzire. (File Photo).
Acting Commissioner General of Police, Mary Gahonzire. (File Photo).

Madam, you did a great job over the festivities, hardly any crimes were committed, and the Traffic Police averted the usual carnage on our roads at this time of the year. All revellers who hit Kigali streets seeking to make merry during the festive season had to do so in a sober state or on foot.

The police were out in full force. They set “ambushes” on all axes leading in and out of neighbourhoods to crack down on over-exited and often drunk drivers.

As you remember only 50 cars were towed away on Christmas Eve, but the number halved on New Year’s because many “happy people” preferred to remain that way – they walked or called a sober taxi cab, an even rarer species during this crazy season!

The police would have received full marks for keeping the peace had not one of your very own tainted the hardworking force. It was during our traditional New Year Eve party-hopping spree that we came across a mob of frenzied revellers who were behaving in an unusual manner that could have aroused the curiosity of any journalist.

The charged crowd was in the process of meting out mob justice to some unfortunate fellow whom they accused of stealing a cell phone. Fists, kicks and sticks were flying, pounding on the already bloodied suspect that his pulpy face would have been no more had we not intervened.

Holding back the drunken crowd that was baying for blood was no mean feat but we managed to calm them down proceeded to conduct a citizen’s arrest and called the police to take over; that is when the disappointment with some sections of the law came about.

In normal circumstances, and going by experience, the police usually intervene in the shortest time possible in response to a “112” emergency. But apprehension started creeping in at the sound of the person at the other end of the line.

But then, we were ushering in a new year and believe that policemen are also human and deserve to celebrate like the rest of us, but the orderly officer that day who answered the call could have either gone on duty in a tipsy state, or he was drinking on duty.

The words could hardly come out of his mouth, but he reassured us that help was on the way. Despite the incident having taken place a short distance from the police headquarters (Kacyiru), a thirty minute delay was understandable that night because they had their hands full making sure we entered the New Year in Safe Mode.

But when another thirty elapsed, we felt compelled to remind the police that we were still waiting for their response. My friend who made the call from my phone, got the shock of his life. He was received by a barrage of arrogant drunken diatribes from the orderly officer (who we later learnt was a Superintendent!).

In just a few seconds, the “Afande” on duty nearly wiped clean the achievement-slate of the force in the past year. Hardly had we decided to take to bed our anger, disappointment, and disbelief from the reception, my phone rings.

It is a police number that ends with...... 63 which is used, I am told,  by the Field Officer on duty. Had his colleagues from Traffic been present with a spare breathalyser on that busy night, I could swear their gadget would have registered “HOT” from the rancid smell of his breath over the phone!

The abuses he spewed are not fit to be put to print, but he called us names that range from human waste to militia in the Congo jungles. We were stupefied.

From the state of the man who obviously had had one too many – to put it kindly – the police were wrong in maintaining him at his critical post on a day like New Year’s Eve, because I am sure anyone who called for help that night wondered whether the police force had been invaded by Aliens and not the polite officers we are used to.

We were ready to forgive him for his alcohol-imbued behaviour, but to add insult to injury, when the next day we made a “polite” complaint to some of his peers to give him a chance to apologise, they found him still as high as a kite.

He sent our emissaries back with a message; He did not care and we could go and report the matter at Urugwiro (Presidents office) for all he cared.

Madam acting head of police, that is the man you left on duty that night, who answered the “112” emergency call yet he was also a casualty of the festivities, and by the time I am writing this piece, I hope disciplinary action will have been taken against him because he is a disgrace to the police force.

We pray he be taken back to the Police Academy to redo the chapter on Community Policing and try to understand what the police vision of “Make the people living in Rwanda feel safe and reassured” realy means.

Our only fear is he might spend the whole semester sitting in a corner with a conical dunce hat on his head and he will have wasted your time.

We hope the police continue with its outreach program this year to remind its officers that they are there to serve the population and not the other way round so that this kind of isolated incident is weeded out of the force. I wish you more success in the coming year.

Best regards.

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