Last week on Monday, President Paul Kagame declared war on the increasing carnage on our roads and on human trafficking.
This was during the swearing in of ministers, lawmakers and a deputy police chief.
The President’s call to put an end to road accidents and the sale of our citizens followed a familiar pattern. He was voicing an issue of grave concern that Rwandans are aware of but do little or nothing about.
The moment he mentioned it, those concerned swung into action.
This time, too, there was a collective ‘yes,’ these things are evil and must be tackled and without delay.
You could see a rolling up of the sleeves and getting into battle mode to start the fight.
The problem of human trafficking, however, goes beyond our immediate neighbourhood and is in fact graver in far off lands.
Of course, these are grave matters. Every life is valuable and any that is needlessly lost is a huge loss. As a nation we strive for the dignity of everyone.
Anything that degrades anyone’s life is unacceptable. And so the fight must be waged. But it must be a smart fight based on the right knowledge and assessment, not a knee-jack reaction as has often happened.
Human trafficking is an expression designed to conceal the horrible meaning of the practice and blunt its impact on our collective conscience.
It is simply a morally and emotionally neutral term for slave trade. But it is not only the name that does not conjure up images of the horrors of the earlier trade, but the way it is done as well.
In this latter-day slave trade, we do not see marauding slave raiders brandishing guns and capturing the most beautiful girls, chaining them together and frog-marching them off to the coast to waiting ships to be ferried across the seas to waiting buyers.
Those were crude methods of an earlier period when sentimental niceties about human dignity had not yet become fashionable.
Today’s trade is more sophisticated. We still have slave traders and even marauding raiders. But they do not carry guns. They have more potent weapons, very difficult to resist because they appeal to the human desire for a decent existence.
The modern slave trader dangles promise, hope, and prospects for a better life before their victims, usually in the form of employment and education opportunities overseas.
In a situation of unemployment and among people who equate Europe, America, the Far East and some other places to paradise, many have fallen prey to the lure of better paying jobs, chance for a better education or simply the possibility of living in foreign lands.
So if the police and other authorities are going to check modern day slave trade, they should be aware that there are sophisticated rings involved in the business.
The little fellow who brings a girl from the village with the promise of a job in town that does not materialise and then the girl ends up on the streets is only a small part of the problem and easy to deal with.
They should spend more effort checking some of the employment agencies and individuals who promise jobs outside the country. Some appear respectable and have all the legal papers, but carry on shady businesses.
They should also show more interest in educational placement organisations or those that promise training of one form or another with a view to securing jobs abroad.
These are, of course, only a few of the possible ways through which our young people are deceived only to find themselves in the sex slave trade. There are many others that should be looked into.
The increasing road accidents are perhaps a case of a good thing leading to a bad one. Our roads are generally good – no potholes to check speed or uneven spots to demand extra care.
The cars too are generally in good mechanical condition; otherwise they would not be on the road. The inspectorate of motor vehicles sees to that.
The combination of these two makes for good, but sometimes careless driving.
However, there is no discipline on the part of all road users – motorist and pedestrians – to match the good driving conditions.
In the past, the police have directed road safety awareness campaigns almost exclusively to motorists. This time they should pay more attention to pedestrians because their level of ignorance of road usage is a leading cause of accidents.
This education should not be a one-off event but a continuous process.
While still on the subject of practices that pose great danger to the public, police should act on the growing drug abuse in the country, particularly among young people.
Drugs are consumed publicly. The police have often arrested users and retailers. But this has not checked the spread of drugs because it addresses only one end of the problem.
A more effective way is to get to the big suppliers – importers, growers and wholesalers.
We don’t have to wait for the President to declare drug abuse an Ebola-type epidemic before action is taken.