Hundreds of people have been arrested for drunk driving since January 2019. The misbehavior is increasingly becoming an issue of national security. President Kagame has even called out Rwandans who have turned into a menace and posing a threat to the safety of the community, prompting National Police to increase their operations to crackdown on the offenders on the loose.
Police Spokesperson, CP John Bosco Kabera spoke to Taarifa broadly about the matter.
Police is toughening operations to crackdown drunk drivers, why now?
People are increasingly drinking irresponsibly, getting involved in fatal accidents claiming innocent lives, clearly ignoring the law. That’s why the Rwandan National Police has actually become so tough about this. I can give you examples, in Nyagatare district a drunk driver killed five people at the same time, around Ryabega. Another drunk driver killed two people around MINAGRI area at 5am in the morning. Two people were killed at PEAGE. We saw another accident at Gishushu around RDB, a drunk driver hit camera pole and destroyed it. Eleven others died in a fatal accident in July.
Those are some of the cases I can recall. We have many other cases of drivers who tamper with speed governors. We have been conducting campaigns, to sensitise the public. We have senstised taxi drivers in taxi parks, truck drivers, mortorcyclists, to pedestrians, company owners; we are now senstising students and now planning to train drivers, logistics managers of bus owners, motorcylists, and truck drivers.
What is causing all this sudden increase in alcohol consumption and the related breaking of the law?
People are safe and feel like they want to enjoy that safety. This is very okey. It is their right, but it should be done responsibly. We are not in the business of inconveniencing people’s freedoms, however wreckless behaviours are not acceptable. Enjoying is good. But it should be done responsibly. Why do you want to enjoy to death? Your own life or the life of others should not be endangered because you are enjoying. If you don’t control your behavior we will help you to control it so that you don’t harm others….For example, in one of the recent weekends, we arrested 120 drivers, and this past weekend we arrested over 140. It is as if nothing is changing, yet we have actually broadened operations to include secondary cities and other provincial towns across the country.
Those are huge numbers. Are you able to accord legal due process to everyone?
Investigations are conducted to establish the motive of the offender according to the law. When a person knows the law, and over the weekend he takes his or her car, then goes drinking and gets drunk and then goes on todrive, we need to investigate what causes them to break the law. Remember, the law gives the Police up to five days to complete the investigation.
It is so serious that the President has commented on these accidents…
Yes he talked about it, because there are serious issues where people unnecessarily lose their lives. Every life matters, yet we have lost around 400 lives since January. This is a serious problem. It must stop. The law is being revised and some of these offenses might be criminalized.
What is the difference between drinking and driving and being drunk, and are they both punishable?
Drunk driving is when you drink and exceed the normal alcohol content. Whe you are tested with a breatheliser, and it is proven that you exceed the required content, 0.8 according to the current Rwandan safety laws, then you are considered a drunk driver.
But being drunk is when you can’t control yourself from being a danger to yourself and others and becoming a public neusense. When you are in a bar, the bar tenders and security will handle you, because Police doesn’t get into a bar to arrest you. You can be arrested when you disturb peace out of the premises.
How are they treated when detained? People are complaining that they are treated miserably…detained in poor facilities and so on…
We have detation centers across the country that meet standards. Everyone in those centres is treated the same so they shouldn’t expect special treatment. We are assessing cases to establish repeat offenders and their driving licenes will be suspended for a specific period of time.
We heard that a list of the arrested is sent somewhere?
No, it’s not sent somewhere. These are operation reports submited to designated offices according to the Police Leadership structure.
In the broad sense of safety and security, where do you place this scenario?
Safety and security begins with an individual, that she/he must be safe; by behaving according to the law, reporting any suspicious incidence that may cause insecurity to him and to the community, to be a responsible citizen. The Police and other security institutions we are ready to support anyone and to intervene where necessary.
What is the worst case that you have recorded so far?
When a driver gets drunk, drives and kills five people, tampers with the speed governor, drives wreckly and kills people, one to 10 people. We have recorded those cases.
There is also this issue of wreckless drivers causing inconveniences?
That’s where the Gerayo Amahoro campaign comes in. It intends to achieve behavioral change for all road users, drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, children; that’s why we are in schools, and we think our children will be able to grown up well if they understand this concept of road safety rules.
Sometimes you get people calling National Police about being stuck in a traffic jam and when we go there, we find them having misunderstandings in the middle of the road, inconveniencing each other on the road. This is very serious.
Police will not stop conducting some of these operations, but they go hand in hand with public awareness. We will have to scale up as long as we are dealing with people. We have to be consistent.
And no drivers with no permits?
No one should attempt such an act, because we have eased issuance of permits across the country. If there is a driver out there with no permit, that would be worse and the consequences will be very serious. I hope there is no one out there.