According to the draft penal code, one might think crimes like abortion, adultery, human trafficking, and narcotics trafficking… should end in Rwanda. But views of Law makers, prosecutor, leaders and psychologists diverge, where some believe in more punitive measures, while others think of counseling for prevention.

Figures from the National Neuropsychiatric Hospital, CARAES Ndera, indicate that last year 2016, all 2804 patients with alcohol and drug induced illnesses made consultation there, as compared to 440 in 2009. In prosecution, numbers received files related to drugs have since significantly gone up: 5,659 in 2016-2017, while cases were 3, 920 in 2013-2014.

Minister of local administration, Francis Kaboneka, suggests tougher laws, as drug abuse is ruining the youth, “Instead of someone found guilty being sentenced to two years or so, only for them to return to selling drugs, the sentence should be more punitive and I suggest life sentence. That way, it will be deterrent”, he said, the NT.

His idea is not far from the proposed Penal Code, which says “any person who unlawfully produces, transforms, transports, stores, gives to another, or sells narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances faces heavier sentences, “Life in prison and a fine of no less than Rwf20 million but not exceeding Rwf30 million,” the draft  says.

Globalization and trauma behind

The prosecution states that early 2000s, drug trafficking and consumption was not a common crime in Rwanda. Jean Bosco Mutangana, General Prosecutor, partly blames globalization for the sudden surge.

“Selling or using drugs is not something known anywhere in our culture but with globalization, many of our youths have become addicted to Western lifestyle where experimenting with such has rendered some of them addicts who can’t do anything useful for themselves or society,” he said.

As drug abuse is the largest contributor to domestic violence, murder, theft, bodily harm, among other crimes today, he appealed for a deeper look into the issue, beyond the deterrent and punitive measures.

Dr Vincent Sezibera of Rwanda Psychological Society agrees with Mutangana, as people’s behaviors change with globalization, and some addict drugs due to stress, anxiety to depression or suicide.

“You may talk with a common rwandan and notice a confusing habits…that why some kill their spouses, one made a suicide. This is a symptom to a particular depressing problem, rending to bad relationship or parents loose care to children”.

However, psychologists raise awareness around mental health and psychotrauma, with large gap between demand and supply in the domain of healing from psychological trauma.

In a post-war society, the pervasive impact of psychological trauma damages social development and growth of the country. There is severe attachment trauma in orphans and widows survivors of the 1994 genocide, and other trauma related problems have a massive impact on families and lead to trans-generational trauma.

The government has done a lot, has invested time and money in fighting drugs, including purchasing equipment that can detect drugs that have been ingested, says Minister in the President’s office, Judith Uwizeye.

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Moreover, the Government set up the Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Training Centre, where majority of drug addicts, are rehabilitated and equipped with hands-on skills at Rwf591,000 per person.

Heavy punishments against traffickers

Under the proposed Penal Code, deterrent laws target traffickers more than the consumers. Article 289, “any person who is convicted of eating, drinking, injecting themselves, inhaling narcotic drugs… is liable to a term of imprisonment of 1 to 2 years”, but faces heavier sentences, “any person who unlawfully produces, transforms, transports, stores, gives to another, or sells narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances: life in prison and a fine between 20 and 30 million Rwfs,” the draft law says (currently, 3 to 5  years imprisonment and a fine between Rwf500,000 and Rwf5 million).

Meanwhile, if acts cited are performed to a child or performed at the international level, the penalty is life imprisonment and a fine between Rwf30 million and Rwf50 million.

Better prevent than cure

Perhaps this could finally deal with the issue of drugs once and for all, as Mutangana believes that the law deals with causes instead of consequences; something that he says is a kin to treating symptoms, not the disease, this significantly will reduce drug use.

A Rwandan psychologist in Europe, wishes prevention before punishment, as imprisonment also causes trauma in family, and has impact on country’s development.

He says, “People invest in drug to get money, these can engage funds elsewhere. But consumers get exile in drugs. Psychologically, it’s like a prosthesis he finds. Though, we should analyze the causes to prevent: why are people stressed, depressed, why are they in anxiety? All countries are on this struggle, but Rwanda case becomes worst with genocide against Tutsi consequences. People are hopeless, that’s what to fight. It’s a tough struggle, it needs means, but all governments do the best to overcome the vice”. However, the expert insists on the very compulsory penalties, especially against traffickers.

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Jean Baptiste Karegeya




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