Duo arrested with skin bleaching products in Kigali

On 3 September 2021 at 07:45

Rwanda National Police (RNP), on Thursday, September 2, showed to the media two women, who were arrested for allegedly trafficking and selling outlawed skin bleaching products commonly known in Rwanda as ‘Mukologo’.

They are Rosette Uwase, 35, and Mediatrice Uwiragiye, 29, who were paraded at Rwezamenyo Police station in Rwezamenyo Sector, Nyarugenge District.

They were arrested during the Police operation against banned skin bleaching products conducted on September 1, in Nyamirambo Sector also in Nyarugenge District.

Police also seized from the duo combined 284 pieces of assorted skin whitening creams and oils, which include Caro light, Magic Claire and BIO Plus all worth over Rwf250, 000.

Rosette Uwase admitted that it was the fourth time she managed to sell the outlawed lotions. In some case, she said that she would travel to DRC to buy the harmful lotions and sneak them into Rwanda through porous border points.

“I have been trafficking and selling these products since April this year; these lotions are part of my fourth consignment that I had brought from Rubavu District where I live, with a taxi to Nyabugogo. I was arrested on arrival in Nyamirambo where I was going to supply one of my clients,” said Uwase.

Mediatrice Uwiragiye argued that she was inspired by a friend to sell the outlawed lotions.

“I received a call from my friend four months ago asking me to join her in selling these skin bleaching products, I accepted.

We came together yesterday to meet the client in Kigali, I had lotions in a small bag while my colleague (Uwase) had wrapped them on her thighs covering them with clothes she was wearing," Uwiragiye narrated.

RNP spokesperson, Commissioner of Police (CP) John Bosco Kabera said the suspects were arrested as part of the ongoing operations against traffickers and local dealers in skin whitening products banned in Rwanda.

“Police had got information about people, who sneak outlawed skin bleaching products into Rwanda from neighbouring countries. These two are some of those who were identified to be traffickers and were trailed until they were arrested red-handed," CP Kabera said.

He called upon the public to follow the law, refrain from trafficking, selling and using the outlawed skin whitening products.

Side effects

There are 1,342 listed cream and oil brands with hydroquinone and mercury, which are prohibited in Rwanda.

The products contain chemicals such as mercury and hydroquinone, which can cause liver damage, reduce resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, and increase anxiety, according to the World Health Organization.

If it enters the bloodstream it also results into fatal liver and kidney damage, although medics say the most immediate visible side effect is skin scarring.

Health experts confirm that prolonged use of corticosteroid creams and lotions can also decrease levels of collagen in the skin.

Collagen strengthens and supports the skin, and a reduced amount can increase the risk of striae commonly known as stretch marks.

Legal framework

The skin bleaching products are labeled illegal under the ministerial order determining the list of cosmetics, whose use is prohibited in Rwanda; the law on organization, functioning, and competence of the Council of Pharmacists; and the law relating to the regulation and inspection of food and pharmaceutical products.

Article 266 of the law determining offenses and penalties in general, states that any person, who produces, sells or prescribes harmful products; cosmetics or body hygiene substance or any other products derived from plants, commits an offence.

Upon conviction, he/she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and not more than two years and a fine of not less than Frw3 million and not more than Frw5 million or one of these penalties.