Moving around Nyabugogo valley, last Wednesday morning, a middle aged mechanic repairs a flat tyre. About 20 meters away, a group of five young men are smoking, chatting and some washing clothes.
Also visible are gloves dumped on the river banks by doctors, probably used to examine a body of man found dead on the river banks, the previous day.
This is the infamous Nyabugogo valley, located a few meters from
Nyabugogo Park where reports of drug abuse and crime are rampant. The suspects, a group of young men who call themselves ‘The Marines.’
J MV Ndindiriyimana, a resident of Gatsata Sector in Gasabo District, says the group has made the area their permanent home and blames them for a wave of recent crimes, mainly theft, and of recent murder.
Two murder cases have left the area residents worried.
Oliva Mukankusi, 25, was found dead along the Nyabarongo river in the Nyabugogo area, last week on Thursday. The deceased had reportedly left home the week before, and after close to seven days of searching by family members, children collecting cattle feed discovered her body.
Victim two, according to Ndindiriyimana, was a man whose body was discovered close to the ‘the marines’ hang out during the day.
“During the day, we can move around. Once it gets dark, no one can dare walk around this area,” Ndindiriyimana says, adding that the gang targets passers-by for mobile phones and cash among any other valuables.
“They rob you of anything, and flee into the valley. You can’t risk chasing after them.”
Though police denies linking the recent murder cases to ‘the marines, residents in the area believe the gang is responsible for the insecurity.
Police Spokesperson Supt. Theos Badege pointed out that it is easy for someone to suspect the group, but investigations have to be completed before fingers are pointed at anyone.
However, another resident, Dativa Murekatete a member of a cooperative of cleaners said disclosed that a woman was raped by the same group and some of them were arrested, including one of the ring leaders, nicknamed ‘Super glue.’
“The police arrests them but they return as soon as they are released.
Some of them were at Iwawa rehabilitation centre, but they came back not fully transformed,” Murekatete said.
People collecting cattle fodder who talked to The New Times said they could easily identify the thugs if they came across them on the streets.
Another mechanic at a nearby garage, who declined to be named, said the group is organised.
“They are not street children as it appears, they are mature, they come stealing our materials and we can’t dissociate them from the suspected murder cases around the valley,” he said.
He cited an incident where the group allegedly burnt their work materials, including car tyres and other tools “after threatening to kill the night watchman if he dared report them.”
“They live there, sleep there and even cook from there. They made this place their own and both local leaders and the police are aware of it,” he insisted. However, police insisted the group comprises street children who flee to the valley after being pursued by security agents.
Supt. Badege, without giving statistics, told The New Times yesterday the police have made some arrests, and some of the suspects have been taken to rehabilitation centres.
“We will try to solve the problem, but it should be a collective responsibility involving police and local leaders,” said Badege, adding they would end the problem before it gets out of hand.
“We have been dealing with the problem of street children around the valley and elsewhere. We want to end the problem before those street children turn into hardcore criminals,” the spokesperson concluded.