The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: How Much Is a Human Life Worth? U.S.$500?

opinion

Photo: Leadership
Rajab Mbukani's body was found hanging on a tree.

First of all, I want to reiterate the fact that only a judge can hand down a 'guilty' verdict; not the police, not a newspaper and certainly not a humdrum columnist like myself. I will not, and cannot, in good conscience comment on whether or not Dr. Radjabu Mbukani was murdered by the mother of his children, that is for the court to decide.

The gynecology lecturer, who taught at the National University of Rwanda's medical school, was found murdered last Thursday in Kanyinya in Kigali, having been bludgeoned to death.

The police officers investigating the case believe that his estranged partner, for monetary reasons, sought out two young men to do the deed. Yesterday, one of the young men, Jean Paul Cyuma, a 32 year old cobbler by profession, pensively confessed to the crime, telling The New Times reporter who interviewed him that he murdered the doctor for 300,000 francs because he, and his colleague, were "tempted by the money and nothing else".

While I'm sure the entire sordid tale is probably much more complex than the above paragraph makes it out to be, as we shall surely learn when the case is heard in court, what I'm really shocked about is just how 'cheap' this hit was. I mean, if a medical expert can be killed for less than five hundred dollars, how safe are the rest of us? I can only imagine that a journalist like me can be sent to the other side for a few thousand francs. Secondly, just how desperate does a man have to be to commit this crime for such a pitiful sum? I mean, let's be honest here, you can't even buy a healthy cow for that amount.

Among the myriad of reasons that experts use to explain the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is poverty. This 'poverty theory' is one promoted by attorney and anthropologist Paul Magnarella, chair of the Peace Studies Program at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. He argues, "While social and political imbalances contributed to the 1994 Rwanda genocide, extreme poverty was the predominant factor that led to the killings".

Well, I'll be honest here and say that I'm sick and tired of poverty being an excuse for murder (in the good doctor's case) and Genocide. There are plenty of people who live in poverty, including here in Rwanda, but you don't see them becoming paid assassins do you? Or genocidaires?

If the suspect is found guilty for the doctor's murder and jailed, all I'll feel is sadness. This is because, no matter the punishment handed down, one of the best doctors in the country will not treat any more women or teach another class. And his two children will grow up without a father.

While I'm on this topic, I want to pen my discomfort with the manner which police sometimes handle suspects. I still remember watching handcuffed suspects being paraded in front of television camera, confessing to all sorts of crimes. I find it uncomfortable seeing men and women paraded thus because I feel that it undermines a central tenet of law, the 'presumption of innocence'.

Everyone is presumed innocent until they are found guilty by a competent court. I understand that the Police is trying to do the public a service by granting media access to 'juicy stories', but let's be honest here, how many people have been successfully prosecuted and found guilty? Even if the prosecution is successful ninety-nine out of a hundred times, that means that one innocent person is unfairly paraded before the cameras. And let's be honest here, how many times do we read in a newspaper or watch on television that some small fry was found innocent? Never.

So, while it seems that it's easy to besmirch someone's name, restoring it is another thing altogether. I mean, how many people would hire someone whose been paraded by police on Rwanda Television? I certainly wouldn't. How many would consider a romantic relationship with them? How many would engage in business with them? Not too many. I think that these 'parades' need to be reassessed.

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InFocus

Rwandan Lecturer's Murder Suspects Jailed

Rajab Mbukani's body was found hanging on a tree.

A court has overruled a bail plea by suspects in the murder of former university lecturer Rajab Mbukani, and has ordered that they be imprisoned for 30 days. Read more »