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27 October 2015

Policing the land of a thousand hills

Interview with Rwanda’s Police Chief Emmanuel Gasana


INTERPOL General Secretariat (IGS):The 84th INTERPOL General Assembly takes place in the Rwandan capital from 2-5 November 2015 with the involvement of hundreds of people from all over the world. Is Kigali ready for the challenge?

Inspector General of Police (IGP), Emmanuel Gasana: With more than 40 years of INTERPOL membership, Rwanda is proud and ready to be organizing such a prestigious international police event. The land of a thousand hills has successfully staged many world-class meetings before; it is not a challenge for us but a genuine pleasure. Everything is being done to guarantee a fruitful and constructive event with long-lasting police results to benefit the law enforcement community at large.

We will offer participants a unique experience in an African city that is modern and very safe. We look forward to receiving General Assembly delegates and helping them enjoy the famously warm Rwandan hospitality.

Organizing INTERPOL’s General Assembly this year is also Rwanda’s opportunity to step beyond the post-genocide stereotype and demonstrate that Rwanda is strong. Our economy, society, governance and justice systems are the most robust they have ever been. Delegates at the INTERPOL General Assembly will witness and enjoy this first-hand.

IGS: How far has Rwanda come since the 1994 genocide? What role has the police force played in its progress?

IGP Gasana: The Rwanda National Police has played, and continues to play, a significant role in rebuilding Rwandan society. As the custodian of security and public order, we contribute to economic development by providing a secure environment for investment, tourism, trade and the easy movement of goods and people.

Let me emphasize one fundamentally important point. The growth and progression of Rwanda’s police force are due to the visionary leadership of His Excellency Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda.

Remember, the genocide left the country in social, psychological and economic ruin. More than one million people were murdered in just 100 days. The people of Rwanda were destitute and traumatized. Orphans, widows and dead bodies filled the blood-soaked streets and countryside. Delinquency was endemic, infrastructures destroyed, instability and terror the norm.

Healthy business cannot happen in an insecure environment. By reinstating national security and developing a strong trusting relationship with our people, Rwanda’s National Police helped overcome the greatest threat to the development of economy and society: crime and the instability it brings with it.

My country and police force are well-known for ‘zero tolerance’ of corruption. It is not possible to reform a country when corruption and crime are rife. We are tough on issues of law and order, because they are critical to national prosperity and the continuing development of democracy.

That is how far the Rwanda National Police has come today. The people of Rwanda have high expectations of their police force, and we do everything to live up to those expectations and keep their country strong, safe and enjoyable.

IGS: How has INTERPOL membership contributed to Rwanda’s security? Has it made a difference to the Rwandan crime landscape?

IGP Gasana: Regional and international police cooperation play a critical role in Rwanda’s national stability. My country is challenged daily by the consequences of serious crime committed not in Rwanda, but at African and international levels. As the criminal landscape transforms across the globe, Rwanda feels the backlash of more modern, sophisticated and increasingly digital types of criminality.

Through its INTERPOL membership, the Rwanda National Police is able to confront these challenges from many perspectives. INTERPOL provides training which enables Rwanda’s police officers to appreciate the complexity of a wide range of international crime areas and how best to tackle them. INTERPOL databases, now accessible nationwide and at all Rwanda border posts, enable officers to determine within seconds if a suspect is a potential threat to national security.

Intelligence-led police operations coordinated with INTERPOL’s member countries and General Secretariat have led to endless seizures of illicit goods, fakes, stolen vehicles, drugs and increasingly also the detection of people smuggling. No police force in the world can achieve this alone. INTERPOL provides the international police outreach Rwanda needs to preserve its national security.

IGS: Rwanda sits geographically on an emerging transit route for drugs bound for Europe and beyond. How has INTERPOL membership helped in dealing with the consequences this must have on Rwanda’s crime scene?

IGP Gasana: To be honest, crime in Rwanda has traditionally been mostly local in nature, with small-scale robberies and domestic violence the most frequent mission for my officers in the field. But what alarms me more is the increasing trend for criminal networks to use Rwanda as a transit point for drugs seldom seen in the past, like cocaine and heroin.

It all started about a year ago when more than seven kilograms of cocaine from Brazil were intercepted at Kigali international airport, bound for Europe. The incident unveiled the unpleasant fact that Rwanda was apparently being used as a transit point by dangerous international drug networks who thought that by using Rwanda as a transit point, their crimes would go undetected.

Fortunately, the INTERPOL National Central Bureau for Qatar in Doha had provided INTERPOL Kigali with the intelligence it needed to intercept the drugs and take the four suspects into custody. The case was so international in nature, with three of the four suspects holding Belgian passports and Brazil and Qatar being used as transit countries, that only INTERPOL could provide the global services a police force needs to deal with this kind of situation effectively.

The incident illustrates why INTERPOL membership is so important for Rwandan stability and security. It enabled Rwanda to boost its vigilance to a harmful new crime trend and put a stop to it. As a result, over the past year at least 10 drug traffickers have been arrested either smuggling hardcore drugs into the country or using Rwanda as a transit route. The high number of arrests is testimony to the importance of strong international police cooperation.

You can imagine how important it is to Rwanda that the topic of drug trafficking is high on the General Assembly agenda this year. This will give us precious insight into new threats, new challenges, and open the debate about a need for new global approaches based on experiences such as ours.

 

IGS: Rwanda is strongly represented at INTERPOL with specialized officers seconded across the globe, from the Regional Bureau in Nairobi to the Headquarters in Lyon and the Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore.  Why such a high level of representation?

IGP Gasana: Why the surprise? International visibility and involvement are important for a strong, ambitious and actively developing country like Rwanda.   

International representation has boosted the reputation of Rwanda’s police officers who are now called upon worldwide to share their expertise, conduct operations, develop policing capacity and assist with strategic police planning.  

Today, the Rwanda National Police serves in eight UN peacekeeping missions worldwide. We rank amongst the top countries for numbers of female police officers in UN peacekeeping operations.

Police officers travel from all over Africa to attend law enforcement training at Rwanda’s national police college.

Rwanda National Police won a United Nations award for outstanding contribution towards the fight against gender-based violence.

Still, Rwanda aims higher, wants to achieve more.  We do not intend to step out of the productive, constructive spotlight that international visibility brings us.

My country has defied all negative predictions and demonstrated an unexpected capacity for driving change on a grand scale. Yet some people continue to mistakenly perceive Rwanda as an impoverished country still in post-genocide tatters. Organizing INTERPOL’s General Assembly this year is Rwanda’s opportunity to step beyond this stereotype and demonstrate to a prestigious international audience that Rwanda is a determined developing country. We have a bright future ahead of us, and the Rwanda National Police has a strong role to play in keeping it that way.