Parliament has passed a new law governing the Rwanda National Police, that will see the force take punitive measures on offences committed by its officers, especially desertion.
The bill which had been tabled last year was passed this October 6, 2022 after some serious debate on article 63 on the offences and penalties marked for desertion by an officer.
The law states that an officer who gets absent from his or her unit or duty for more than fifteen (15) consecutive days without valid reasons commits an offence of desertion.
Upon conviction, he or she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than one (1) year and not more than two (2) years.
If an officer commits one of the following offences: cross borders; desert with a gun or any other Police equipment and in conspiracy with more than one police, for more than six months; they will be sentenced to imprisonment of not less than five years but not exceeding seven years.
The same punitive measures apply for non-commissioned police but the only difference is the last part where the sentence should be imprisonment of not less than three (3) years but not exceeding five (5) years.
“After 15 days out of work the police officer is taken as a disaster and this is punishable,” said MP Bugingo Emmanuel, Chairman of the Parliamentary foreign affairs committee.
Bugingo said that this article was discussed with the Police and they said that the force wanted to make this act of desertion a criminal offence punishable by law unlike in the past where it was just a disciplinary conduct.
MP Christine Mukabunani asked if it was necessary to put time limits on the act of dissertation, which she found difficult to understand especially on section 3 – (if one has deserted for more than six months).
“I don’t see the crime in this section because if the crime is committed it is once and doesn’t matter how long the said police officer goes into hiding after deserting. If one has deserted they have deserted and that is the crime,” Mukabunani said.
The committee chairman said that if this crime is committed it has to have a time line but also to deter intentions of deserting is done
“There are some officers who get training and later desert with classified information and details of the force. The Police wanted this to be considered in the law as an offense, to deter this danger which is possible in Rwanda and seen in other countries,” MP Bugingo said.
The Minister of Internal Security, Alfred Gasana said that this is to encourage the police officers to report their whereabouts if not on duty and to know the repercussions.
Other MPs asked many questions but especially MP Emmanuel Ndoriyobijya asked why not add a fine since there are other laws and criminal cases which come with the fines.
The committee said that the fine was not included because the core intention is the punitive measures to prevent attempts of deserting or desertion.