Police brutality and self praise: the Kigali reality!

Oh, I miss the good old days when Chief Toni Kuramba would appear on television and say: ‘Twari twarababwiye, bareke ubujura na magendu. None twabafashe’. (We had warned them to stop theft and smuggling. Now they have been caught). Even though the Chief appeared to show off, at least no one died then. Nowadays we have daylight executions, followed by unapologetic statements meant to demean and shift the blame onto victims.

As far as I remember, the death penalty has been abolished in this country; That means no one should be killed. How then can the police put out a message to the public saying: ‘everyone should avoid anything that can lead him to be shot’?!

God, how does one avoid being shot at? Does it mean, everyone can be shot, anytime? Has being shot become part of our daily life?

Not a month ago, it was the president’s doctor who was shot dead. Official verdict: ‘He fought with a policeman with a gun and he shot him’. Hein? A man who was mentally unstable was detained in a place where there are guns? – Then tricked the policeman to go to the toilet – at gunpoint – once out there, he struggled with him for the gun, and pan! – the police shot him three bullets in the stomach…

Two weeks later, it is two presumed thieves who were detained at a police station, tricked the police to go show them whatever things at their house; police accepted to drive them – not handcuffed, then the two jumped the pick up, and Pan! – both shot dead! Official message? ‘They tried to escape; they were shot dead!’

In no case has the police apologised,  saying: ‘we are sorry to the bereaved family. We have no protocol of dealing with mentally erratic individuals, we shouldn’t have detained him in a jail cell like a mere criminal, or guns shouldn’t have been around him; in the second message: we are sorry, we should have had these individuals handcuffed the whole time we went out with them, then it would have been easy to apprehend them, had they tried to flee.

Instead, they beat their chest and say: ‘we warn the public to avoid doing anything that can get them shot dead!’ that’s that! Move on people, until the next summary killing…

In other places the chief of police resigns, or at least the chief of the station.

How come no legal suits are being filed against this? Is it because people are happy with the explanations? Or is it because people believe it’s a lost cause to use the judicial system against the police? When asked whether he wanted his trial to be held in camera or in public, one defendant recently responded: ‘whether you hold it in my house; out there in the open or in the stadium; I don’t care, lets just get it over with, shall we?’

Then tomorrow a report will be released, claiming that ‘more than 90% of the population is satisfied with the government. Yeah right! Like the same 90% who have mutuelle de santé…. Look, make it 99.9% if you want, here is at least one citizen who is not satisfied with the government right now; especially the police and the judiciary! I will keep saying it, until the police starts to own up for their deadly mistakes, and officers are prosecuted for them.

Even in the so called corrupt countries surrounding us, at least there are judges who hold their ground against police brutality; God even in America, Obama goes ahead and says: ‘Yeah, we tortured some folks’

Situations like this lead to general fear. Like the proverbial kingdom of the blind, where the one eyed man is king. When the public can’t sort out what is true from what is manipulation, we live in rumorland – and fearland.

Sooner or later, some opportunists crawl out of the woodwork and claim to detain crucial revelations; people will believe them, for the simple reason that no one is fooled by the idyllic picture daily painted by the New Times.

But that is when the line between justice and tyranny becomes blurring. This don’t ask, don’t tell business is the best vector of injustice. If a squad is given carte blanche to do as they please, you cannot expect them to set their own limits.

Like Warthorne once said: ‘no one can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without ultimately being bewildered as to which one is true!’

I write these things because I still believe. Like the president said in Gabiro: individuals [in this case institutions] shouldn’t commit crimes, which are then attributed to the whole system. Answers need to start coming soon, and the best place to start would be to do away with cover-ups. In Kinyarwanda there is a saying: ‘ushaka gukira indwara, arayirata…’ (if you want to heal from a disease, you first break the silence about it)

Posted 17th March