March 2, 2020

The ‘Kanyanga’ Gangs Terrorising Gicumbi District As Officials Look Away

Trustworthy and indepth news stories are more important now than ever.
Support our newsroom by MAKING A CONTRIBUTION HERE

Villagers in sectors along Rwanda-Uganda border live in fear. Gangs of men have been left to maraud the area as they go about their business smuggling Kanyanga, a crude alcohol, into Rwanda. Anyone who reports their movements risks death.

Some families are so scared they don’t want to talk, even when their family members have been killed. Reason; why waste time and risk your life when nothing will be done about the gangs.

In this investigation, for the time, we have identified the names and codenames used by the gangs. From the region, everyone knows people by the tag “Abarembetsi”. Local officials know them, but are unwilling to do anything, despite Kanyanga causing havoc in communities.

We found a woman in Gashiru village, Gatoma cell in Kaniga sector, whose husband Katurebe Gaspard was murdered by the gangs. The woman refused to speak to us, saying she had cried enough but no one has helped, so doesn’t see the need to speak anymore. Such is the level of desperation.

In an other location, Habiyakare Sindikubwabo Jean Damascene, 42 years, a former Reserve Force official and father of 5, is incapacitated. He has not been able to work for over a year now as a result of injuries he sustained during a battle with the gangs. He lives in Bukamba village, Ngondore cell, Byumba sector.

Habiyakare Sindikubwabo Jean Damascene, 42 years, a former Reserve Force official and father of 5, is incapacitated. He cannot work as a result of injuries sustained during operation to capture Umurembetsi (one of the Kanyanga gangs)

At the time of he incident, he was called by village head to an operation to arrest Kanyanga gangs. In the ensuing battle, he was seriously injured as seen in pictures. Habiyakare desperately needs help.

“At least if I can get treatment so that I can be able to fend for my family. I will be very glad. Right now it is my wife struggling for us to eat,” he narrated.

Our investigation probed 3 villages in Nyakabungo cell alone. Here, we obtained handwritten lists from local officials of names of the gangs that ferry Kanyanga on bicycles, and sell it around Gicumbi. This crude alcohol finds itself in other regions of Rwanda.

Remember Byumba sector has 9 cells, yet in just Nyakabungo cell, we found 8 gang members. We have their real names, and codenames used for their Kanyanga smuggling – which they do unhindered.

There is Niyonzima Elias (alias Cyevure), Habanabakize Tomas (Karyongo-Tiri), Guhagahungu Ruberi, and Gasimba Meddy. Some are members of the local villages, known to local officials by their codenames including Cado, Twinemugisha, Sikora, and Ubyawenuwe.

Gangs earn 45% profit

The victims of these Kanyanga smugglers are in different sectors around neighboring Burera district also. Narinizeye Innocent from Rugaragara village, Gaseke cell of Ruhunde sector, was also a Kanyanga smuggler and was killed by his colleagues. They accused him of giving information to the authorities.

But then what is important about the Kanyanga business that these men are willing to take all these risks? According different sources, some of whom are ardent consumers of the crude gin, the profit is so enticing.

A 20 liter Jerrycan is bought for Rwf 27,500 from Uganda, and is sold inside Rwanda for not less than Rwf 40,000. This shows the smugglers are able to earn 45.45% profit on every Jerrycan. For a bicycle that can bring in at least 4 jerrycans, the profits are simply too enticing.

Local authorities in the most affected areas say unemployment is another of the major catalysts for people to resort to Kanyanga smuggling and distribution. Iyamuremye Alphonse, the head of Gacyamo village, Nyakabungo cell, Byumba sector, said; “As we are here, you could see them matching with their bicycles. The manner in which they match alone is so scary”.

Another issue is a long standing complaint by residents and local officials that gang members arrested, are not long after, seen back in the community. Niyonsaba Elie, the in-charge of security in Gacyamo village, said: “We are always wondering what really happens when these people are arrested. When they return, they openly brag that their money has released them.”

Northern Province Governor, Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi, together with Gicumbi district officials and senior security personnel have conducted regular operations to seize Kanyanga and other banned drugs from communities. The most recent was February 11, in Rubaya sector where more than Rwf 2.5m worth of Kanyanga and other crude drugs were destroyed. Such actions are common, yet the Kanyanga keeps flowing in.

Governor Gatabazi has vowed that by end of 2020, smuggling of Kanyanga into that region will be history. But he is up against a deep rooted local fabric that helps the Kanyanga gangs, or the Abarembetsi for that matter, to know when such security sweeps are coming. The Governor is himself aware of the challenge.

“One Umurembetsi confessed to us that the village head gets a cut from the sales of drugs and knows all about the business,” says Gatabazi, “In return, the village head leaks information to the Umurembetsi about impending operations.”

In this cat and mouse game, it is difficult to see how Kanyanga and other drugs can be wiped out from communities. Everyone blames the other. The ordinary people say they are attacked by the Gangs if they give information and have no protection. The local officials point to cases where the drug gangs are arrested, but then are back in the community.

Police in Gicumbi district dismissed any such cases exist. Inspector of Police Gasasira Innocent, the Police Spokesperson for the Northern Province said: “We are not aware of any such cases where suspects are freed from police custody. Any police officer found engaged in hindering the process of bringing these Kanyanga smugglers to book will face the full force of the law, as you are well aware the institution doesn’t tolerate corruption.”

By Mukandayisenga Phoibe

This story was produced as partnership between Radio ISHINGIRO, a community broadcaster based in Gicumbi district, and The Chronicles

We can't do quality journalism without your support

Perhaps it goes without saying — but producing quality journalism isn't cheap. At a time when newsroom resources and revenue are declining, The Chronicles remains committed to "Serving Your Right To Know The Truth". Stand with us as we document Rwanda's remarkable journey for you and the future generation. Do you value our journalism? We can't do it without you. Show us with your support by CONTRIBUTING HERE.
Email your news TIPS to or WhatsApp +250788351327.
You can also find us on Signal


  1. Please let me know if you’re looking for a article writer for your weblog.
    You have some really good articles and I believe I would be a good asset.
    If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some
    content for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine.
    Please blast me an e-mail if interested. Regards!

  2. I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I absolutely loved every little bit
    of it. I’ve got you bookmarked to look at
    new things you post…

  3. A motivating discussion is worth comment. I think that you should publish more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but usually people don’t discuss such topics. To the next! Cheers!!

  4. When intending to convert a specific amount of Bitcoins to dollars or any other currency, it is essential to have the proper tools at hand. Each crypto exchange shows the different values of digital currencies based on the users’ trading activity. So, keep in mind that the BTC price may vary depending on the source you check. The fans of this cryptocurrency are sure that Bitcoin is the future of the global financial system. So, analysts predict its further uptrend. When dealing with the BTCUSD, traders should pay attention to position trading strategies. Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, as described in the now-famous Bitcoin white paper. Created in 2009, Bitcoin was the first of today’s cryptocurrencies, later giving inspiration to projects like Ethereum and thousands of other crypto projects.
    Meanwhile, new developments in the Shiba Inu ecosystem have provided a further boost to the SHIB ecosystem. Recently, the meme coin announced a new Self-Sovereign Identity feature. With SSI, Shiba Inu (SHIB) would enable users to retain their identity and assets in a wallet. Experts believe that the new feature will increase the usability of Shiba Inu (SHIB). Sign up Therefore, $1 per Dogecoin is not impossible and while $1000 per Dogecoin seems totally out of the question, it is not unachievable. Doge is more for fun and games than for solving real-life problems. Can Dogecoin reach $1000? The truth is, if people are willing to pay for something, any asset can achieve a certain price target. Dogecoin launched on December 6th, 2013. A mere 13 days later, its value jumped 300%, going from $0.00026 to $0.00095 in the span of three days. Dogecoin trading continued to rise, and in 2014, for a very brief period, Dogecoin’s volume was actually greater than that of all other cryptocurrencies put together, including BTC.

  5. VeChain is a blockchain platform for supply chain management, offering full transparency into organizational processes via smart chips, RFID tags, and sensors. Key features include comprehensive supply chain tracking, a dual token system (VeChain Tokens (VET) and VeChain Thor Power (VTHO)), smart contract capabilities, IoT device integration, and support for decentralized application (dApp) development. There is no defined limit to invest in cryptocurrencies, just like there is no minimum limit to invest in stocks. However, there is some difference. If you do not wish to buy an entire cryptocurrency, you are allowed to buy small units of it. Once registered, a user can add money to his her wallet and use that amount to place an order for Once a manufacturer finds an investor for its stock, it can initiate a repurchase request before the end customer can purchase. Through Supply@ME’s fintech platform, businesses facing various challenges in supply chain disruptions can access a new source of cash flow for their operations.
    .chakra .wef-10kdnp0How is the World Economic Forum promoting the responsible use of blockchain? The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) banned financial institutions from handling Bitcoin transactions in 2013 and went further by banning ICOs and domestic cryptocurrency exchanges in 2017. Unsurprisingly, China does not consider cryptocurrencies to be legal tender and the country has a global reputation for harsh cryptocurrency regulation. Under a 2020 amendment to China’s Civil Code, the government ruled that cryptocurrencies have the status of property for the purposes of determining inheritances. Bitcoin, the currency created to subvert the financial establishment, has shaken off weeks of sickness with the support of Wall Street’s finest.

  6. Hello There. I found your blog the use of msn. That is a very well written article.
    I will make sure to bookmark it and come
    back to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post.
    I will definitely return.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *