Cases of police brutality and unnecessary use of live bullets by trigger-happy police officers on unarmed citizens are unfortunately on the increase in Rwanda.
This violation of human rights has been ongoing for some years now and the fact that it continues betrays a rather sad oversight by a government whose maiden responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens.
The fact that these acts of violence against unarmed citizens are orchestrated by the very officers that are mandated to protect the very citizens they shoot, is even more disturbing to say the least.
It has taken local human rights watchdogs to come out and sound alarms about this abhorrent behavior, which has left many families without bread winners, after fathers, sons or husbands lost their lives.
Save for the insurgencies in Eastern DRC-which neighbours Rwanda, the country is at peace — a state of affairs many have longed for after episodes of blood-letting that characterize the country’s history.
So people shouldn’t be dying of gun wounds, especially from their own security personnel, the human rights watchdogs like the umbrella association of human rights organizations, CLADHO, that have come out to condemn this trend are worth commending.
Last month an unarmed smuggler of goods from Uganda into Rwanda was shot dead near one of the porous borders in the Eastern province by law enforcement personnel, which saddened many people both in Uganda and Rwanda, and it was not the first time a smuggler was shot dead.
The latest reported cases are of two robbery suspects who were shot dead by the police patrol in Rubavu, western province last week, and there are others that go unreported.
Rwanda has civilian protection laws in place that law enforcement personnel need to respect and uphold, everyone caught committing crimes or offenses, be it smugglers, robbers or thieves that are unarmed have to be brought to court to face justice and killing them in cold blood.
Even those that are resisting arrest and are running are not supposed to be killed, the worst that can be done is shooting to maim-which is in the legs, not shooting to kill.
Article 38 of the Law determining the powers and responsibilities of the Rwanda National Police, provides that an officer may use firearms only if they are subjected to violence, fighting an armed person, or a notorious criminal when other means have failed.
It states that the use of force has to be lawful, reasonable, proportionate, and consistent with laws governing police officers.
A few years ago, a lawyer was shot dead near the Kigali Convention Centre by Rwandan security personnel because they claimed he drove past a blockade that was in place, a charge I have never understood up to now.
Responding to the appeal by CLADHO, the Rwanda National police spokesperson has said that officers are allowed to use force to ensure the safety and security of citizens within the law and Standard of Operations on the use of firearms.