September 27, 2020

Prison Director Reportedly Arrested After Asking Catholic Church for Help to Feed Malnourished Inmates

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Inside one of the prison facilities

The director of Gicumbi prison CSP Iyaburunga Innocent is said to be in detention in relation to a public appeal made by the Catholic Church for food to feed thousands of prisoners.

The Chronicles broke the story of the Catholic Church’s appeal on August 30. In a public statement, the Church asked everyone to bring foods like silver fish (Indagara). It said due to banning of family visits to jails due to COVID-19 restrictions, inmates with special needs were unable to get food supplements from their families.

Gicumbi prison was the hardest hit with severely malnourished inmates, said the Church in its appeal.

It has now emerged that the Catholic Church’s appeal was motivated by a letter which the director of Gicumbi prison wrote to the Church’s diocese, the Pentecostal Church of Rwanda or ADEPR and other groups in the region, asking for help.

CSP Iyaburunga wrote his letter on June 19, and it was received on June 20 by the Byumba diocese. He wrote that the prison needs food supplements to feed vulnerable inmates, some of whom had swollen legs caused by malnutrition.

The Gicumbi prison chief said due to COVID-19, family visits were not allowed, reason why he was seeking support from the diocese. CSP Iyaburunga asked for silver fish, sugar and SOSOMA, a locally common composite flour with different ingredients.

Hours after The Chronicles reported about the Church’s appeal, the Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS), which manages prisons, took to Twitter to dismiss The Chronicles reporting. Following reactions from public telling RCS that they should be dealing with the Catholic Church which had made the appeal, not the media, RCS issued a statement.

The RCS statement the next day signed by Commissioner General, George Rwigamba said there was no problem of malnutrition in prisons. He said measures had been put in place to help inmates who depended on special food supplements from their families before COVID-19.

The Gicumbi prison director CSP Iyaburunga is reported to be in the custody of the Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB), but it has yet to confirm the arrest.

The letter written by director of Gicumbi prison CSP Iyaburunga asking the Pentecostal Church of Rwanda or ADEPR for help. A similar letter was also sent to the Catholic Church

CORRECTION: This text has been slightly modified. The caption on the last image is a letter the Gicumbi Prison sent to ADEPR. Similar letter was also received by the Catholic Church

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