The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Cattle Theft Hits Huye

Residents of Mbazi sector, Huye district, have expressed worries over the rampant cases of cattle theft in the area.

Residents in Mbazi sector claim those who have been arrested in connection with the thefts have not received appropriate punishment

The thefts are rising at an alarming rate, livestock farmers in the area told The New Times.

Cases of stock theft have been reported, especially in Tare cell, Mbazi sector, and other surrounding villages. The cases have also been recorded in the neighbouring Huye and Maraba sectors of the same district, according to the farmers.

The residents claim that at least 30 cows and some 50 pigs have been stolen over the last few months. This newspaper, however, could not readily establish the veracity of the claims. Authorities in the area also insist they cannot give a precise number, saying they do not have the records of the alleged stolen livestock.

Residents are somehow exaggerating the numbers, an area leader said of the complaints.

By press time, it was not yet clear who is behind the theft, but residents suspect their animals are taken during nights to other areas where they are sold.

The cows are mainly taken to Rusizi district in the West, one resident claimed. But a local leader said there is no tangible proof to support the claims.

"We no longer sleep peacefully because we fear our animals might be stolen at any time," Mbateyi Marie Goreth, an area resident, said.

The residents are calling for stringent measures to stop the phenomenon. Among their suggestions include restricting movement of cows at night and increasing vigilance at slaughter houses.

However, Schadrak Ntakirutimana, the leader of Tare cell, said measures have been put in place to curb the thefts. He said night patrols have been intensified.

"We have increased vigilance, especially at night, to ensure an end to this trend," Ntakirutimana said.

He added: "Those behind the thefts are causing double loss, first to farmers and second to the government, because I suspect in such conditions they do certainly avoid taxes. We cannot tolerate such crime to continue in our community."

Fear of reprisals

On Monday night, three people suspected of stealing a cow in Tare cell were arrested. The three lads (names withheld) were arrested in a night patrol mounted by residents in conjunction with reservists and local leaders and later handed over to Police.

A cow was found tied with a rope in a nearby bush and it is suspected it was being taken to potential buyers, sources said.

The suspects were seeking Rwf120,000 for the cow, one of them said, but had reportedly failed to agree with their buyers on the price.

Residents in Mbazi sector claim those who have been arrested in connection with the thefts have not received appropriate punishment.

A woman, who prefered anonimity, claimed many of the suspects have been released 'within three weeks or less" after they were arrested.

She said there are fears that it might result in acts of vengeance, because 'residents have clues about the suspected thieves"

"Some individuals might take justice into their hands," one resident said.

However, area leaders say they are doing everything possible to end the crime.

Mbazi sector executive secretary Claudine Mukamudenge told a local community radio that leaders are doing all in their powers to apprehend the culprits.

On suspicion that some cow vendors and owners of slaughter houses might be behind the theft, Mukamudenge said: "We will not hesitate to stop anyone whose activities pose a threat to the community."

Article 300 of the Penal Code stipulates that 'any person who commits theft without violence or threat shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of six (6) months to two (2) years and a fine of two (2) to five (5) times the value of the stolen property or one of these penalties."

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