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Youth urged to take ownership in the fight against drug abuse

Combating trafficking and use of illicit drugs took the centre stage on Sunday as senior government officials discussed measures to support the youth and prevent them from being victims of narcotic drugs.

The televised live talk-show brought together ministries of Youth, Health and Education; Rwanda National Police (RNP) and National Rehabilitation Services (NRS) to discuss dangers that psychotropic substances pose to the young generation, the most vulnerable group and to echo the call for everyone to reinforce the available efforts to fight the vice.

The minister of Health, Dr Diana Gashumba, said that narcotic drugs pose serious health problems to users.

“It is one of the causes of illness such as; heart, liver, kidney and mental problems; the same applies to use of shisha. It is scientifically proven that a girl who smokes shisha at a young age is likely to give birth to an abnormal child,” Minister Gashumba said.

Rwanda, mid this month, banned the importation and smoking of water-pipe commonly known as shisha tobacco, in the country.

The ban was in consideration of the international advisory by the World Health Organisation that cites scientifically proven serious health implications such as lung cancer and heart diseases that shisha tobacco cause.

The Minister of Youth, Rosemary Mbabazi, commended the regular awareness campaigns conducted countrywide by Police and partners, to help the young generation fully understand the dangers of drug abuse and their ultimate need and commitment to avoid and fight the vice.

Mbabazi appealed to the public to take “ownership” and share information with the police on those involved in drug related crimes.

Meanwhile, the State Minister in charge of Primary and Secondary Education, Isaac Munyakazi said that educating students on dangers of illicit drugs in partnership with police was adopted in schools.

“We have anti-drugs clubs in schools, and students are making good use of these platforms to discuss and educate each other on dangers of abusing drugs, and their role in addressing the problem,” Munyakazi said.

At least majority of about 2,000 anti-crime clubs in the country, are in schools.

“These community policing foras have left the youth with a changed mind and we have had cases where students reported drug dealers and abusers,” he added.

Munyakazi further reiterated that, the Ministry of Education is working closely with the NRS to rehabilitate the identified addicted students.

According to Aime Bosenibamwe, the coordinator of NRS, at least 12228 addicted youth aged between 18 and 35 years, have so far been rehabilitated and equipped with vocational skills since 2012.

About 90 per cent of the rehabilitated youth, he added, have “completely been healed from drug consequences, and are engaged in income generating activities” adding that “10 percent if not followed closely, are likely to abuse drugs again. ”

Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Theos Badege, the RNP spokesperson, noted that abuse of drugs remains one of the main concerns in the country and one of the key priorities of the force to address it.

Tricks used by traffickers

Some drug traffickers wrap drugs around their bodies, stash them in luggage, pumpkins and bicycle tyres; women strap them on the back like babies; others put them in their veils; others hire vehicles and motorcycles especially at night.

Police spokesperson shared some “responsible experiences” where some passengers, drivers, motorcyclists and the people in communities have either apprehended drug traffickers and handed them to Police or called the police to report drug dealers, a community policing act he said continues to supplement the drive to break chains of supply.

“Addressing the problem is a crosscutting issue; you could be a leader somewhere and you take bribes from drug dealers, the following day you will be receiving complaints. Police will be receiving cases of injuries or people killed as consequences of drug influence. We will be getting cases of sexual assault, theft among others,” Badege said.

“To address this issue requires responsible thinking and responsible action as leaders and individuals.”

Most common drugs like cannabis and illicit gin including kanyanga and others parked in banned plastic bags, are trafficked from the neighboring countries, and ACP Badege said that at the regional level, RNP has engaged their neighbouring police forces to harmonise joint efforts to destroy cannabis farms and breaking chains of supply.

Rwanda and Tanzania Police forces are currently conducting joint operations in River Kagera and sharing information on the whereabouts of cannabis farms on either sides to destroy them and arrest dealers.

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