Rwanda: Grassroots Leaders Cited in Crimes Cover-Up - What's Behind This?

17 February 2020

In December 2019, Gaspard Kajuga Munyaneza was paraded before the media at Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) among other suspects for shielding suspects in a defilement case in Kinyinya village, Gasabo District which he used to head.

He was suspected to have presided over a case in which he reconciled Innocent Bizimana with parents of a three-year-old girl whom he had allegedly defiled.

After conducting a preliminary investigation, RIB handed the case to prosecution.

Investigations are ongoing.

Munyaneza denies all the allegations and claims that the case was not serious enough to be reported to RIB.

Two weeks after the incident, RIB arrested him and the suspected defiler, Bizimana.

Munyaneza is accused of being an accomplice and presiding over a criminal case for which he has no legal ability to handle.

Cases like his are so familiar at RIB, as confirmed by Spokesperson Marie-Michelle Umuhoza that local leaders get involved in some crimes either intentionally or unintentionally.

"Local leaders get caught up in crimes because they are first hand-holders to crimes. Sometimes they are ignorant of how they are supposed to be legally dealt with or they just lose their values," Umuhoza told The New Times.

She explained that while there's no specific research on public servants who have committed such crimes, Munyaneza is a good example.

Talking to this publication, Faustin Nkusi, Spokesperson of National Public Prosecution emphasised the legal implications of being an accomplice in criminal cases.

He added that covering up or getting involved in a crime when in a position of power is a crime in itself.

"We know that cases where local leaders get involved in crimes exist and are dealt with by the law. No one is above the law and leaders are no exception," Nkusi said.

Ignorance of the law?

Jeannette Mukarugabe, the Head of Akindege village, Nyarugunga sector in Kicukiro District has very little knowledge about the responsibilities that go with her position.

Although she has to report criminal cases to competent organs, she has fears that she can get herself caught up into "some complex cases" unknowingly given her little knowledge about her job.

Her case might not be very unique as the main criteria considered when voting for village head is the "willingness to serve and ability to read and write".

For Jean-Bosco Nyemazi, Chairperson and Spokesperson of Rwanda Civil Society Platform, lack of integrity and accountability are some of the reasons why local leaders end up being accomplices in criminal cases.

"From a cultural perspective, leaders should have integrity and be accountable, as it is also stipulated by Rwanda's leadership code of conduct (PDF file). But when they lose values, the law is applied," Nyemazi says.

He, however, added that there is an urgent need to raise awareness on criminal laws to the public and local leaders.

Leadership code of conduct

Article 9 of law n 61/2008 of 10/09/2008 (PDF file) on the leadership Code of conduct prohibits public servants to use their position to breach the law.

It also stipulates sanctions against misbehaved leaders that include dismissal.

Being an accomplice is punishable by the aforementioned law with a term of imprisonment ranging from two months to two years and a fine ranging from Rwf10,000 to Rwf1,000,000.

The Ministry of Local Government in an email with The New Times emphasized that the law on apprenticeship is clear and that applies to anyone.

"Any local leader who commits a crime or any other felony is pursued by the relevant laws accordingly and some other serve administrative sanctions. The articles from the penal code of Rwanda stipulates punishment for every case of crime plus other laws stipulated in the public sector general statute (PDF file)."

This was also highlighted by the Secretary-General of Rwanda Association of Local Government Authority (RALGA) that the association detaches itself from misbehaved local leaders and trusts the law to be clear on the matter.

According to Local Government System in Rwanda (PDF file), local councils and heads of villages are elected. The last local elections were held in February 2016 and the next elections will be held in 2021.

Executive secretaries are appointed after going through a written and oral interview process managed by the Public Service Commission

Local leaders manage 416 sectors, 2,148 cells and 14,837 villages. Village leaders are volunteers and are not recognised by public servants' statute.

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