25 September 2006

Rwanda: Marijuana Fields in Nyungwe Forests

Kigali — Barely days after police intensified operations against drug trafficking, marijuana (cannabis sativa) fields have been confirmed in the thick forests of Nyungwe National Park. The national tourism office (ORTPN) has disclosed that the drug is cultivated by people living around the park.

"We are faced with a very big problem of drugs in this park. It (cannabis) is grown by Nyungwe forest encroachers most of whom have lived in this game park for over ten years," the Chief Warden, Francoise Bizimungu, said.

Speaking to The New Times in an exclusive interview at the ORTPN office in Kitabi, Southern province on Thursday, Bizimungu said, most of the gardens were being discovered by game rangers as they trail poachers.

He revealed that the drug is mostly cultivated in Nyaruguru district, the eastern wing of Nyungwe National Park.

He explained that, together with police, some of the gardens were identified and destroyed in the area between July and August this year.

"The illicit activity of growing cannabis is fast stretching out to the northern part of the park, particularly, in the surrounding districts of Nyamagabe and Nyamasheke," he said.

Although ORTPN is working with different security agencies to curb the widespread cultivation of cannabis in Nyungwe Park, Bizimungu expressed concern that the problem was escalating due to a growing network.

"The growers of this illicit drug have a network of drug dealers in the neighbouring Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo," he said, adding that the chain has created meeting points where transactions are conducted.

To weaken or even break the network of drug dealers involved in this racket, he said, anti-narcotics agencies needed to investigate the key markets for the drug.

The confirmation of cannabis growth in Nyungwe comes at a time when the police force has stepped up operations on illicit drugs trafficking, with warnings to transporters to stop promoting the vice.

Both private and public transporters, the security agency claims have no restrictions in carrying illegal drugs.

The Police Spokesperson Willy Higiro said recently that the drugs especially Cannabis are hidden and transported in sacks of Matooke and charcoal.

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