THE Rwanda National Police could probably be one of the most efficient forces in the East African region if not the Great Lakes Region.
I say this because the efficiency of our police force is primarily based on their sense of dedication and commitment to their duty more than possession of sophisticated equipment or resources at their disposal.
Stories from most of Africa’s police forces are to say the least depressing. Stories range from a catalogue of misdeeds to utter incompetence.
A survey conducted by BBC about two years ago demonstrates the extent to which Africa’s police have degenerated. Taking an example of Nigeria, police officers from the mobile unit are referred to as ‘kill and go’ because of their trigger happy tendencies.
In Kenya, until recently, the traffic police have often been accused of extorting bribes from motorists, a habit that earned them the term TKK, Toa Kitu Kidogo, a Swahili derisory phrase meaning, “give something small”.
You hear about the same stories from Ghana, where the men in uniform are often chided as ‘koti’ because of their tendency to harass the public.
Recently, a Zambian, disgusted by the police commented thus, “….while driving; I have been subjected to police check-points hardly 300 metres apart. With the government budget over-run, it seems the police have turned into revenue collectors!”
Sylvester Aboagye, a Nigerian, commenting on police brutality says, “If you die of the gun in Nigeria, the odds are 50/50 that it will be either the police or armed robbers.”
These sentiments may be harsh and sometimes unrealistic but they tend to portray a sense of disgust and despair towards an institution that should be lending a helping hand in matters of security.
As said, our police force continues to demonstrate competence in their work and has not yet had many ‘bad apples’.
Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi recently remarked at the launch of a book entitled “Policing a rapidly transforming post-genocide society” that “at its formation with the country still emerging from genocide and great instability, the Rwanda National Police faced an imposing array of security challenges that not only did it overcome but also exceeded expectations”.
It has been reported that more than 100,000 Rwandans are involved in community policing committees in various residential areas throughout the country.
Besides investment in capacity building and community policing, the Rwanda National Police is said to be using a multifaceted approach to counter crimes including cyber security like money laundering and terrorism, among others.
The Rwanda National Police continues to participate in peace support operations in different countries under the auspices of the African Union and the United Nations Organization in countries such as Haiti, Sudan and South Sudan, just to mention a few.
With over 2,000 female Police Officers in the Rwanda National Police, the country is now one of Africa’s leading contributors of women Police officers with an estimated figure of 500 Police women stationed at various United Nations Missions in Africa and beyond.
However, the Rwanda National Police still has a long way to go in terms of sensitising the Rwandan people on basic rules of public order. This is a continuous exercise that will require getting closer to the public.
After all, it is in the interest of the Police that the public gives them credit for what they do.
I recall a friend of mine in a neighbouring country telling me a story how he once reported a crime and was asked if he had fuel for the Police car! This is not strange in some African countries.
I believe that it is important for our police officers, in some instances, to exercise some measure of good judgment in discharging their duties. There should also be a less cumbersome approach by the police when checking traffic defaulters.
For instance, I do not see why a motorist should be subjected to carrying an original log book and driver’s license in the face of possible car thefts. In some parts of East Africa, it is rare to find a motorist carrying an original log book or driver’s license perhaps, this is because thefts and car jerkings are rampant.
The traffic police could also have at their disposal modern communications gadgets that should help in tracking down, at short notice, vehicles that are at fault.
For us in Rwanda we are still lucky that we have a disciplined police force devoid of corrupt tendencies. Corruption has been likened to a disease and can only be effectively addressed once its existence is recognised.
The earlier we recognise the symptoms, the more likely we are in ensuring that it does not take root in our country.
The writer is a consultant and visiting lecturer at the RDF Senior Command and Staff College, Nyakinama