June 2, 2020

Police Nets 13 People for Encroaching National Park in Western Rwanda

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Gishwati Forest National Park is a relatively new tourist destination with a variety of bird species

Police in Rubavu district is holding 13 suspects alleged to be involved in destruction of a forest reserve, to face at least five year in jail if convicted.

Separate Police operations against environment degradation conducted on Saturday and Sunday in Rubavu District led to the arrest of 13 people, who found cutting trees in a gazetted forest.

The suspects were cutting trees in Gishwati Forest National Park in Kanama and Kanzenze sectors, Police said in a statement.

Chief Inspector of Police (CIP) Bonaventure Karekezi, the Police spokesperson for the Western region, said the suspects were arrested following deforestation reports shared by residents residing near the protected forest.

“Police received information about people, who had sneaked into Gishwati Forest National Park, where they were cutting trees. In planned operations conducted Saturday and Sunday, they arrested 13 people, who were found burning charcoal and lumbering,” said CIP Karekezi.

“These are continuous operations mainly based on the credible information from the residents to fight deforestation and environmental related crimes, and protect forests and national parks,” he added.

CIP Karekezi urged the residents to refrain from any acts that degrade the environment and affects natural forests and parks, but rather plant as many trees as possible and promptly report people, who keep degrading the environment.

He warned that environmental degradation is a crime and any person, who will be caught, will be held accountable.

Such environmental crimes are a major drive to climatic change and loss of habitat, which pose threats to species.

The law on environment prohibits cutting trees in forests or protected areas like national parks or burning them especially in article 44.

Article 59 of the same legal instrument, states that any person, who causes death, destroys protected plants, harvests or damages them, commits an offence.”

Upon conviction, the offender is liable to an imprisonment term of not less than three years and not more than five years and a fine of between Rwf1 million and Rwf3 million.

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