Inside Rwanda’s remarkable effort in combating drug abuse and trafficking

On 29 June 2023 at 05:51

Drug abuse is considered a major threat globally and Rwanda is no exception. It is an alarming issue affecting youth development, the majority victims.

On Monday, June 26, the World marked the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, under the theme:"People first: stop stigma and discrimination, strengthen prevention."

The day is marked every June 26, to raise awareness of the major problem that illicit drugs represent to society.

Over the years, Rwanda National Police (RNP) in partnership with other institutions and the citizenry, through community policing, has continued to make strides against narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, which are considered one of the major setbacks for youth development in Rwanda.

In the operations conducted over the past weekend, Police and residents of Rubavu, Nyabihu, Burera, and Kayonza districts—some of the major transit routes for narcotics and illicit brews – seized 35 kilograms of cannabis from four suspected traffickers and distributors, who were also taken into custody.

Rwanda has emerged as a shining example of effective governance and socio-economic progress. Alongside its remarkable strides in economic development, the country through the National Strategy for Transformation (NST1), has set up strategies to fight against drug trafficking and abuse that are indeed gaining momentum.

This multi-faceted approach, rooted in preventive measures, rehabilitation programmes, and law enforcement efforts, exemplifies Rwanda’s commitment to fostering a drug-free society and safeguarding its citizens.

The national strategy to combat drug abuse begins with a strong emphasis on prevention – recognizing that addressing the root causes is crucial; it is against that backdrop that the government in partnership with stakeholders launched extensive awareness campaigns in communities, media outlets and in schools by championing the creation of anti-drug clubs.

Those initiatives aim to educate the public about the dangers of drug abuse and promote healthy lifestyle choices. By empowering individuals with knowledge, Rwanda is building a society equipped to resist the lure of substance abuse.

One can’t talk about the progress made in combating drug abuse and trafficking, and overlook the awareness and rehabilitation programmes.

The RNP, in the implementation of the national anti-drugs strategies, has pursued a multifaceted approaches that involve awareness to kills the market, mapping the trafficking routes and enforcement targeting mainly suppliers; creating 2000 anti-drugs clubs in schools and communities but also supporting reformed drug dealers and rehabilitated addicts with alternative small income generating activities.

In 2021, the RNP supported community development activities to a tune of close to Rwf1 billion as part of its 21st anniversary also known as ’Police Month.’

At least six cooperatives in fishing, hog farming and poultry in Rubavu were given a financial support of over Rwf40 million. The are former drug dealers , addicts, smugglers and those who were formerly engaged in other illegal activities.

Last year, more Rwf2.5 billion were pumped into community development projects across the country as part of the RNP activities to mark its 22nd anniversary. This includes a financial facility amounting to over Rwf35 million to cooperatives.

Furthermore, with more than 730,000 youth volunteers across the country, they have been instrumental in raising awareness against the scourge.

The national rehabilitation centres of Iwawa, Gitagata and Nyamagabe ensure that those affected by drug abuse receive the necessary assistance through several activities that cost at least Rwf4 billion on annual basis, according to NRS figures.

The rehabilitation centres offer a holistic approach that includes counselling, therapy, vocational training, and reintegration support. By focusing on both physical and psychological healing, Rwanda is giving individuals a chance to rebuild their lives and reintegrate into society as productive citizens.

Efforts invested in fighting against drug trafficking and abuse would not be complete without good governance, effective institutions at the backdrop of community ownership and active engagement.

Police also work to dismantle drug trafficking networks, curb the flow of illicit substances across borders and disrupt supply chains in the main transit routes that include Kirehe, Nyagatare, Burera, Gicumbi, Rubavu, Rusizi and other districts on borderlines.

What the law says

Rwanda has strict laws regarding drug abuse and illicit trafficking. The country has implemented legislation to combat these issues and protect public health and safety.

For instance, Ministerial order No 001/MoH/2019 of 04/03/2019 establishing the list of narcotic drugs and their categorization classifies cannabis in the category of "very severe narcotics”

Article 263 of law No 68/2018 of 30/08/2018 determining offences and penalties in general states that any person, who unlawfully produces, transforms, transports, stores, gives to another or who sells narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, commits an offence.

Cannabis, heroin, cocaine and other hard drugs are classified as very severe narcotic drugs in Rwanda.

Upon conviction for "very severe narcotics," the offender faces between 20 years and life imprisonment, and a fine of between Rwf20 million and Rwf30 million.

On Monday, June 26, Rwanda joined the World to mark the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.