A new draft law giving Rwanda National Police powers to license and deregister new private security companies has been passed.
The 23-article law governing private security firms was unanimously passed by Members of Parliament on Thursday with a few reservations on the circumstances under which the Force can nullify a license.
Tabling the Bill late last year, the Minister for Internal Security, Sheikh Musa Fazil Harerimana, told Parliament that lack of a regulatory framework encouraged unprofessional conduct such as private security guards stealing from clients with impunity.
"These people are in charge of security. There are circumstances they go through which can help the national police to enhance security but they withhold information. This Bill provides for necessary coordination," the minister said.
The Rwanda National Police, with the help of other security organs, vetted private security companies but the firms acquired operational licenses from the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
But under Article 3 of the draft law, any security service provider shall first obtain a license from the Rwanda National Police. RDB can only provide a business certificate.
"However, the Rwanda National Police reserves the right to cancel the license for security purposes," the draft law says.
But some lawmakers questioned the withdrawal of a license without warning.
"The Bill does not provide for a possible appeal in case of nullification of the license and a possibility of reinstatement of the license in case it is proved beyond doubt that the security agency posed no security threat," said MP Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi who abstained from voting on article 3.
However, the deputy chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security, Julienne Uwacu, said matters of security cannot go through protocol.
"Assuming a security agency is involved in terrorism acts, you cannot afford to issue a warning when you already have proof that they are involved in something that is harmful to national security," Uwacu said.
Another contentious issue was the age limit of 18 years and above for someone to acquire a license, to which some MPs argued that it was too low given the nature of the job.
However, Uwacu argued that one can start a business in Rwanda as long as they are 18 years and above.
"At the age of 18, someone can start a company and employ people. Police will have to look into those other technicalities," said Uwacu.
The law sets a transition period of one year before it comes into force. It now waits to be signed by the President and the Minister for Justice before being promulgated. There are over ten security firms in the country.
Security firms speak out
Intersec General manager, Charles Lwanga Gakwaya told The New Times that the new legislation is timely and will help re-organise their operations.
"We were consulted by the parliamentary committee that worked on the Bill. We are happy with this law since it streamlines our operations," Gakwaya said yesterday.
Eddy Sebera, the chairperson of the Rwanda Security Industry Association, said security firms are considered private businesses implying that they should be independent.
"However, we deal with matters of security which is a national concern. In this case, there should be some entity regulating us. That's why the police was given that mandate," said Sebera.
He pointed out that, initially, the Ministry of Internal Security issued licenses but had no monitoring mechanisms.
"Our business is sensitive. Sometimes you need quick intervention. Definitely you cannot call the ministry, you can only call the police. We are happy with the fact that we will now operate under police," he added.