After the 1994 genocide, which brought the country to its knees, a lot has been done to pull the country out of the mess that it was and onto the road to recovery. Champion among them was to strive for peace and security.
Whenever an opportunity to contribute to peace and security has presented itself, Rwanda has not hesitated, responding with utmost readiness in the belief that peace and security is the cornerstone for development.
One of the measures taken, and seriously so, was the birthing of the Rwanda National Police, the RNP, in 2000. Since its establishment, the RNP has indeed worked both hard and well enough to streamline everything that pertains to guaranteeing the safety and security of Rwandans.
Well aware that the community has a better understanding of itself, the police capitalised on that advantage and relied on it to develop an acceptable community policing system. The community, which is consistently educated on the benefits of the same, has also rewarded the RNP handsomely. By the time the Police intervene for appropriate action, the community is the first source of help.
As if in appreciation of the community’s contribution, the Police have set themselves on a mission to involve it in activities that would help improve the community’s welfare, first, and, hopefully later, be a preventive measure against criminal activities. The police are not only helping to improve the social welfare of Rwandans, but also indirectly curbing future criminal activities that may arise due to poverty.
Through its Human Society Program, RNP has impacted on the lives of Rwandans in different ways. By 2012, they had constructed houses for people earning less than Rwfs 500 per month, built water wells to ease the burden of accessing clean water and donated fuel saving stoves to communities around the country.
In addition, the institution also contributed in the construction of basic education classrooms. The initiative has ensured a reduction in school dropout rates thereby reducing crime. RNP is aware of the fact, which most Police forces in the region may not be, that taking part in social welfare initiatives bridges the gap between the public and security organs. By establishing trust, citizens are assured that Police is involved and working to ensure their safety.
The RNP has also involved itself in several partnerships which are aimed at enabling its involvement with other notable entities and, importantly, provision of its own services. In 2012, it was involved in more than 34 different partnerships and cooperation schemes. It had bilateral cooperation agreements with 13 countries and with four others in the pipeline. The agreements were hinged on training, sharing of best practices, and criminal information among others. Even more were 21 internal Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with local institutions ranging from higher institutions of learning, the national utility provider, revenue authority and the environmental management authority.
Presumably, the most important of them all was with the media. The media had previously complained that a dearth of cooperation between them and the law enforcers when it came to sharing of crime related information was frustrating their work. The Police did well by entering a win-win partnership with the media, one which ensured the sharing of timely, meaningful and vital information that both law officers and media practitioners could benefit from. It was an exemplary partnership, especially in an age when information is the most valuable resource.
The RNP is always in the quest for new ways and/or technologies which can match the new trends and threats and nature of crime. It is, for example, pursuing electronic policing. Most of the emerging threats today are connected through the digital world. By pursuing e-policing, the police are readying themselves to combat new trends of digital crimes. The current emerging threats, such as terrorism, money laundering, go hand in hand with IT. To counter them, the police have put up an academy with an information security faculty, which trains officers on how to deal with cyber security, defence and social systems.
Today, Rwanda is considered as one of the African countries with low crime levels, making RNP one of the efficient police forces on the continent. Like everywhere else, there are crimes in Rwanda: armed robbery, corruption, extortions, illegal possession of firearms, embezzlement, drug trafficking, counterfeiting, assaults, break-ins, and defilement. Like everywhere else too, some of these crimes may be committed by the men of the law, the police officers themselves.
A study conducted by the Institute of Legal Practice and Development in 2013 showed that under the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Rwanda judicial police officers do not easily communicate with prosecutors and prefer to communicate with their superiors – a situation that compromises investigations against police officers.
A solution has been found in making the roles of the CID those of now be an independent department within the newly established Rwanda Investigative Bureau (RIB), and under the Ministry of Justice. It is an institutional re-arrangement of the RNP to make it more efficient and effective.
The RIB will bring together intelligence, criminal investigation, and judicial police. It will primarily be charged with general crime intelligence as well as help to relieve the police of overlapping duties that seemed to bring up inevitable conflicts of interest while investigating and gathering evidence on police officers suspected of committing crime.
Moving forward, victims and other people will no longer find it difficult to report to police when they are reporting a crime that involves a police officer(s). They will be reporting to an independent bureau that is not directly under the police.
For Rwanda, it is not about the size or the strength of the force that performance is assured, but, rather, the qualities, capabilities, abilities, and capacities. These form a credible force that is well trained, skilled, and able to perform efficiently, and in an exemplary manner.
BY ALEXANDER TWINOKWESIGA
This article appears in our newsletter, The Deuteronomy Vol 6, Issue 2 of September 9th, 2016 under the title, Rwanda: effective, involving, and ingenious policing
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