Twenty two years ago, any part of Rwanda was not safe – citizens were divided along ethnic lines and mob justice was rampant and climaxed into the 1994 genocide against Tutsi which claimed a million lives.
The Rwanda Patriotic Front which stopped the genocide, managed to turn around everything making the country the most safe on the continent – people are very safe at anytime both day and night.
But what magic has Rwanda used to achieve high standards of safety?
Rwanda is among four EAC countries (Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya) tasked to research on effectiveness of alternative community led security mechanism’s in urban Eastern Africa.
While the Rwandan model is quite different from the rest- government driven, researchers say that it has worked for a country that came out of a dark past.
“Our researchers have compiled a research report that will be presented to the rest of the region. From our experience, others would learn how we have built a firm security system with the involvement of the community,” said Pacifique Barihuta, the Rwandan Lead Country researcher.
The research which started in 2014 was conducted by the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP) and Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies (CHRIPS) focusing on best and worst urban community policing strategies at Kinyinya sector, Gasabo district and Kigali Sector in Nyarugenge district respectively.
The findings partly indicate that Rwanda has strong community led security mechanism resulting from awareness at national and individual level, proper organisation, cooperation among state security organs, adoption of technology and availability of resources from the community.
Findings from Rwanda and other countries will be incorporated and consolidated into a single research book that will be launched in April 2017.
“The findings will be used as a learning experience for these countries. We are counting on Rwanda which has exceptional community led initiative,” said Dr. Mutuma Ruteere the Director of CHRIPS.
Where it all started from
After the genocide in 1994, the country lacked proper government structures leaving loopholes for gross insecurity.
Community policing was just unknown and there were few organised police and army night patrols – residents spent less time outside at night.
“Robbers took advantage of security gaps and stole almost every night. We started routine night patrols of 20 former soldiers just to keep our community safe on volunteer basis,” said David Karemera the commander and founder member of Kinyinya Night patrol known as ‘Irondo‘.
With time according to Karemera the community saw a reduction in robberies and a need to have the foot patrol staff increased and facilitated.
“Through community meetings, they agreed to make financial contributions and government helps us with technical skills,” Karemera said.
Financial contributions from residents, Kinyinya Irondo has bought uniforms for night patrol teams, first patrol car in the country in 2012 and four motorcycles for patrols in all four cells over the past 22 years.
The Kinyinya Irondo patrol teams usually elected by residents moved from working as volunteers to each earning Rwf30,000 monthly.
Today Kinyinya sector is nationally recognised for its best community policing practices and is more organised into professional night patrol teams with over 200 permanent staff, two patrol cars and CCTV cameras at key trading centers.
Kinyinya Irondo won the national community policing award in 2014 walking away with a brand new suzuki patrol truck.
Kinyinya community policing model has since been replicated across the country despite other communities lacking financial capacity.
However, the Executive Secretary of Kinyinya, Umuhoza Rwabukumba says that their success is more than just financial capacity.
“When the citizens understand the value of security they fully give in whatever they have. We will recruit more patrol staff and place cameras in all key centers,” Rwabukumba said.