By Dr David Himbara
REMA’s Director General Rose Mukankomeje has been arrested allegedly for corruption. The New Times has quoted police as follows:
“It’s true, Rose Mukankomeje has been arrested. Preliminary investigations have just started. She is suspected to have been involved in obstructing investigations and plans to destroy evidence in a corruption case that has been going on involving former leaders of Rutsiro District.”
Notice Rwandan style of justice. How do you arrest someone when “preliminary investigations have just started”?
Perhaps Rwandan justice does not know the meaning of the term “preliminary” which means “an action or event preceding or preparing for something fuller or more important.” In normal societies, a suspect is asked to give a police statement. The suspect cannot be arrested at this point, because, as the Rwandan police is saying, “preliminary investigations have just started.”
In countries that operate on laws, a suspect gives a statement — a written account of what happened. The written statement at police quarters may be used as evidence in court. But even before making any statement, the officer will ask the suspect a number of questions in order to know exactly what happened. A written statement is then made, including descriptions or names of anyone involved or witnesses to the alleged crimes. Up to this point, the suspect is presumed to be innocent until proven otherwise by the court of law.
Not in Rwanda — you are presumed guilty, and only God may intervene to prove your innocence. In Rwanda-style legal manoeuvrings, when somebody is arrested, know for sure that the regime is diverting attention from itself. Do not be surprise if the regime says that the destruction of Rwandan forests, illegal mining, and pollution of rivers and lakes that have gone brown in colour is all due to Rose’s fault. Even crop failures and hunger will be put on her head — all grotesque abuses of natural resources by the ruling elite will be shifted to Rose.
In reality, Rose has been a lone fighter to save Rwanda’s forests. Take the case of Gishwati forest.
In the 1970s, Gishwati forest was approximately 28,000 ha in size. Since the 1980s, forest clearing for large scale cattle ranching projects, particularly cattle grazing within the forest, pine plantation, cropland and settlement resulted in the loss of about 61.7 % of the forest. In 1986, the Habyarimana regime converted the east central part of Gishwati to pine plantation and pasture. The pasture land was extended to the south west. The northern part of Gishwati totalling 3000 ha was turned into “military zone” by Habyarimana. After genocide in 1994, more natural forest and degraded areas were converted to agriculture land and — cow grazing destroyed the extreme south and north of Gishwati. The ruling RPF elite grabbed large parts of the forest for their own cattle ranching.
In more recent times, mining has played a devastating role on the destruction of Gishwati.
Rose fought hard to revive Gishwati ever since I can remember. Only this year — 22 years since the RPF came to power — has a task-force to save Gishwati-Mukura been realised under her leadership. Mukura forest in particular is threatened by illegal mining. Trees being are routinely uprooted and the forest’s ecosystem damaged. The taskforce is to develop strategies to promote and emphasise environment-friendly economic practices. The taskforce’s inaugural meeting was held at REMA on Thursday March 17, 2016.
Who is Rose Mukankomeje? She is one of the very few scientists we have in Rwanda. Rose is biologist by training with a PhD in Sciences from Facultés Universitaires Notre Dame de la Paix, Namur, Belgium. She has served her country in many different positions and is currently the Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority. Previously she served as a commissioner for the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission.
Let us pray for Rose.