An innovative system is being operated in Gasabo district, where its 3,500 community security guards known as ‘Irondo’, shop for personal supplies at a heavily subsidised rate.
“Irondo” are found across Rwanda. They are members of a particular community who are paid from monthly contributions paid by each home in that community to do 24hr patrols. The fee each home pays depends on the economic level of the neighborhood. It is usually between Rwf 1,000 ($1.20) and Rwf 3,000.
There are other security organs like army, police and DASSO which also conduct their own patrols. The Irondo of that particular community do not cross to another, and are only armed with buttons or sticks and have a uniform. When they arrest you, they call Police immediately which takes you into custody.
The monthly pay each Irondo guard earns depends on how much the community collects for them. In Gasabo district, the mayor Rwamurangwa Stephen last year established a saving scheme in which each Irondo guard saved Rwf 1,000 in a district account.
By the end of the year, they had Rwf 32m, which was used to set up what has been called “Irondo Shop”. It is designed like the famous Army Shop for government security agencies.
In Irondo Shop, the members buy personal home supplies like sugar and different other products at much cheaper rates.
A kilogram of sugar on the usual market is Rwf 1,200 or 1,000 depending on where you shop. The Irondo guards in Gasabo buy theirs from the Irondo Shop at Rwf 800. A small tin of Shoe polish, which they need so much goes for Rwf 300, but is at Rwf 200 in Irondo Shop.
The main shop is located in Kimironko sector. It has branches in each sector of Gasabo district. Each of the 3,500 Irondo guards making up Gasabo simply trekk to their sector branch to shop. With rates at over 30% less, it makes a very big difference for these guards and their families.
Gasabo district launched its shop recently, and follows Nyarugenge district, also in Kigali, to have set up the Irondo Shop. It is a system that will surely soon be copied by the other 28 districts.
The shop replenishes its stock from the revenue of the shoppers and expected to operate independently.
Gasabo Irondo members interviewed by local online news site Kigali Today said that due to their small salaries, they have been largely depending on credit from private shops in the community. As a result, they were seen as constant debtors.
“It undermined our credibility among the population because they see you as a burden because you are unable to pay your debts,” said one of them.
At Irondo Shop, not only is it cheaper, but they can also get supplies on credit.