A virtual plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday, March 3 commended the achievements made so far under the Armed Forces Shop, but requested that it increases its presence across the country to be able to serve better servicemen and women.
The legislators adopted the assessment report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security on the law establishing Rwanda Defence Forces and Rwanda National Police Shop, designated as Armed Forces' Shop (AFOS) and determining its mission, organisation and functioning. The law was enacted in 2012.
Particularly, AFOS has duties including purchasing items either domestically or by importing them from their production source; facilitating beneficiaries to shop tax and duty-free goods; and helping beneficiaries to shop close to their workplace or residence so that they can efficiently fulfill their duties.
The groceries and other products sold at the Armed Forces Shop are subsidized where they are bought duty-free thereby making them affordable to the forces.
The beneficiaries include the military, police, prisons personnel, and any other person who may be determined by a Prime Minister's Order, if deemed necessary, upon a request by the supervising authority of AFOS, as principal beneficiaries; and the spouse of the principal beneficiary and his/her child or children.
MP Fidèle Rwigamba, Chairperson of the Lower House's Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security told The New Times that in January, they had invited the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Albert Murasira, so that he provides information about the execution of the law so that the Committee understands whether the initiative attained its objective.
Overall, Rwigamba said that the parliamentarians realised that the law achieved its objective to ensure that military and police personnel improve their welfare, adding that the Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS) staff were also included in the list of recipients.
He said that the armed forces get relatively lower salaries yet they have the demanding task to protect the country; and they live in areas far distant from their families, such as in volcanoes and Nyungwe National Park areas.
"The move intended to improve their welfare so that they carry out the demanding and important job without worrying that their families will go hungry," he said.
The improvement in the living conditions of the armed forces and their immediate family members was achieved partly as there were more AFOS branches, Rwigamba observed, indicating that they increased from two when the initiative started to 15 currently.
He pointed out that there is a plan to build more warehouses in each province of the country.
"Our wish is that AFOS branches be further increased so that they are closer to them (the beneficiary) because there are cases where they have to make a long distance," he said.
Meanwhile, he said that as the branches are still few, there is a vehicle that operates as a mobile shop by supplying goods to the beneficiaries so that they buy them without making long distances.
The other wish, he said, is that the list of items in the shop be increased because they currently consist of food items such as beans, rice, and flour, as well as hygienic products and kitchen utensils
"There should be other items such as electronics like television and radio sets because they also need them," he said.