City of Kigali Mayor, Fidèle Ndayisaba, yesterday cautioned bar owners against selling alcohol to under age children following another police swoop on Friday night in which about thirty teenagers were rounded up from bars.
Police say the teenagers were got from different bars around city suburbs, allegedly enjoying alcoholic beverages, an act that is against a December 2011 directive that stops minors, below 18 years of age from entering bars or consuming alcohol.
Many of them had no identity cards at the time of arrest while others were clearly no older than 15. One minor, who claimed to be aged 18, blames the manager at a bar in Remera where she was grabbed from, for allowing her inside the premises.
“We understand that bar owners are in business but we want you to render responsible services and protect minors by refusing them entry,” said Ndayisaba.
The minors were assembled before their parents at the Police headquarters in Kacyiru on Saturday morning. They looked haggard and some clearly hungry as most of them had been arrested between 2-4am and had spent the night under police detention.
But some told The New Times that they had been picked up by police as early as 9pm on Friday night, reportedly attending ‘end of holiday’ parties or ‘meeting friends’. These were made to apologise to their parents and pledged to reform. Under the law, they can’t be charged or detained for they are minors.
One of those arrested is 14-year old girl who had left home with her brother only to meet her friends who convinced her to go to a pool party at Aloha Club in Kibagabaga, a popular hangout for young people.
The brother took off but the sister wasn’t fast enough. Her mother joined others to pick up their kids at the police but she looked worried. Sunday Times later learnt that the girl was supposed to fly back to the UK where she’s a student.
Meanwhile, the Aloha bar manager was brought in along with his young clients; the only difference, his hands were in handcuffs and will now be facing several charges including selling alcohol to minors.
He claimed the children picked from his bar were not drinking but had come to swim and dance with friends and at the time of the police raid, the management had stopped the music trying to push out the kids as it was late, past 9pm.
“My place runs a bar, restaurant and swimming pool, these guys had come at the pool to swim, they always do, we know the regulations and follow them, we don’t sell beer to minors,” he lamented as four other young bar managers looked on, hands under cuffs. They looked worried.
But Emmanuel Gasana, the Inspector General of Police also sounded worried when he opened up to address the teenagers and their parents.
“At this rate, we are risking having a wasted generation and it should be the responsibility of everyone, including bar managers, to guide these children to do the right thing,” the Police chief said.
Friday’s swoop follows last Saturday’s closure of a prominent Shisha pub in Kimihurura, Lebanese Restaurant, after Police found minors smoking away at the premises in the wee hours of the morning.
The bar managers say they had done what they could and now want the police to shift the blame to parents who fund and allow their kids the freedom to hangout.