January 22, 2021

‘Kanyanga’ Gangs Still Terrorising Villagers In Gicumbi District, Those Arrested Are Freed

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Residents of sectors of Gicumbi district on Uganda border need protection from the central government

Residents of Manyagiro sector in northern Rwanda laying directly on border with Uganda are living in fear of a smuggling gang that brings the illegal and banned crude gin known as ‘Kanyanga’.

To be able to intercept these well-organized gangs that use bicycles to conduct their trade mainly at night, the authorities have been mobilising residents to report any sightings. However, giving away information is a risky affair, as The Chronicles has previously reported.

In the latest development, we have identified two men who have left fear in residents of particularly Remera cell of Manyagiro sector. Even the mention of the names these two gang members causes panic among the residents. The gangs are known by a single name: Kanyundo from Sangano village, Remera cell, Manyagiro sector, and Nzamurambaho from Taba village, Rwambogo cell in same sector.

For example, on the night of August 19 last year, these two men attacked the home of a one Ndayambaje Charles in Bushinga village which is also located in Remera cell of the same sector. The gangs ripped out windows and door from his house. Intervention by locals and security patrol intercepted Nzamurambaho that night, but the other is said to have escaped.

The traumatized victim Ndayambaje told The Chronicles in interviews last month that his life was in danger. The men who attacked his home accusing him of being a “snitch”, and vowing to “finish” him, are free back in the village. The gangs, and their collaborators are not even afraid to tell him to his face that they will kill him and family. Ndayambaje’s home has been attacked two more times after the first incident, leaving his wife and six children terrified ever since.

Local official also say they do not know why Kanyanga gang member Nzamurambaho was released by the security personnel in the area. Some officials, in off-the-record comments, are themselves also not immune from the terror that the gangs spread in the region.

Gashema Innocent, the executive secretary of Manyagiro sector said he was very aware of cases of people haunted by Kanyanga gangs, and that he had filed reports with his superiors.

In a special report we published March 2020, we detailed the massive profitability of smuggling Kanyanga from across in Uganda, into Rwanda, that those involved are very willing to do anything to stay in business. The gangs are known locally as “Abarembetsi”.

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

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.

Our investigation found different people who had been attacked by the gangs and left with lifelong injuries. Some had been killed.

When we interviewed local security officials, they denied any such gangs exist in the area, and point out that any suspects identified were in jail.

It seems though, that the list of victims keeps increasing, which leaves residents in the region to wonder, why there are still victims.

Rwanda’s border with Uganda has been closed since March 2019 following a bitter fallout as Kigali and Kampala accuse the other of attempting to cause regime change in their countries. Since then, several people have been shot dead by border patrol as they crossed through unofficial points of the porous border.

By Mukandayisenga Phoibe

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

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