President Paul Kagame has spoken out on an ongoing debate on police brutality following recent incidents in which Rwandan National Police (RNP) officers have been on the spot for using excessive force in apprehending errant suspects, resulting into fatalities -something he attributed to individuals.
The Head of State said that while the Government will work closely with the police leadership to address the issue, it would be unfair to institutionalize individual actions of excessive force, by putting it on the entire police force to create an impression that it is the most brutal police force.
He said that the manner in which it is discussed, it seems to suggest that the issue has gone out of hand or that the officers are encouraged to use excessive force on unarmed civilians.
“When people talk about Police brutality, I think it would be a mistake to have an image as if it is widespread or as if It is encouraged by anyone,” President Kagame said, adding that even going back in history, the country’s police force has been rated among the best national police forces around and beyond.
“However, I have also learned that indeed they have been individual excesses,” he said, adding that he can’t attribute that to lack of sufficient training.
“They have sufficient training. They have not only the ability but also the commitment to do what they are doing. The individual excesses depend on individuals really,”
The Head of State said that once in a while, on one weekend, you will see a police officer, drunk driving or having one too many [alcohol] but that cannot be put on the entire force. He however said that it is not a reason not to act on the issue of use of excessive force.
“What I want to say and to assure people is that I have heard about it and already instructed the leadership of the police. All those found to be engaged in such excesses must be held accountable and even beyond that, hold them accountable openly so that even the public knows it has happened,” he said.
He added that if it is done that way, even the public will get rid of the image that somebody may confuse them with, to suggest that it is the way of police doing their work and especially in the Rwandan Police force.
“That will be checked. I am following it up. I have already talked to the leadership of the national police force. I think we are going to see change. There is no need for use of that excessive force, even when the one you are dealing with may be a hardcore criminal. The Police is trained. They know how to deal with such a situation without applying excessive force,”
President Kagame said that on the other hand he has heard other cases or situations where the conduct of the suspects does not help matters.
“There have been real cases where actually some of the criminals that have been arrested attempt to use force against the police themselves some. That overreaction is solicited by that. Bour police force is not as we have seen somewhere else,” he said, adding that the use of excessive force shouldn’t be there.
“I want to assure you that we will rein it in and the leadership of the police is aware. I think the police force is very good force otherwise,”
“In fact, they have been hit hard during this pandemic, doing what they are doing and some of them have been affected themselves by the virus. They have contracted it themselves, because of how much they are trying to do their work which keeps him very close to the people,” he said in defence of the force.
President Kagame said the issue of use of excessive force is something unwanted and undesired that the country needs to deal with but it should be done in a manner that doesn’t necessarily tarnish the image of the police but rather one that deals with recent cases that have come up in police.
President Kagame’s remarks came one day after the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye said that recent concerns of use of excessive force with in the police would be addressed permanently by the government through policy and operational measures.
Minister Busingye made the commitment on Saturday following growing concerns by members of the public over recent cases in which unarmed misbehaving suspects are shot by police while attempting to apprehend them.
The issue has been of concern since the beginning of the year where several suspects have been shot attempting to escape from custody or trying to fight law enforcement officers as they go about their duties.
Busingye made the commitment following social media complaints against use of excessive force by the police on social media over the last two weeks, following the shooting of two suspects, the most recent being on Friday, in Kimisagara, Nyarugenge district.
Police shot and killed a one Boy Munyaneza, a suspect who was detained at Kimisagara Police Station who allegedly attempted to escape from custody through Mpazi Ravine, prompting officers on duty to fire bullets at him.
Munyaneza reportedly asked for permission to go to the toilet only for him to jump into the drainage channel which pours into River Nyabugogo.
The incident followed another one on Sunday, August 30th, in Zaza Sector, Ngoma district, in Eastern Province, in which a police officer shot and killed Evariste Nsengiyumva, who allegedly tried to fight police officers who were enforcing measures against the New Coronavirus.
Police got a tip off that Nsengiyumva and others were in a certain house, whose owner had turned into a bar, drinking past the hour of 7pm. RNP said it had arrested the officer involved while investigations into the incident were being conducted.