Extreme measures to combat Covid-19, in Rwanda are in place, with authorities detaining people who violate the 9 pm curfew and mask-wearing protocols in stadiums for hours – where they are forbidden to move all night. They are then subjected to incessant lectures on virus-prevention and consequently ordered to self-confinement upon their departure at dawn.
Jado Fils Nizeyimana, a hardware shop owner who was kept in Amahoro Stadium for six hours, appears overwhelmed, “I was in the shop I work in, my mask was on my chin, then the police found me in my shop and said, “you’re not wearing your mask right.” Then I got in the car, and they told me that they were taking me to a place to teach me to wear a mask.”
The Rwandan Police Force is Busy
According to official figures, around 70,000 people have passed through detention centres or stadiums since mid-July. The press is regularly invited to film and interview detainees and many have been used as examples in the local media as a cautionary tale to the Rwandan population.
“In Rwanda, more than 70,000 people have been arrested in the space of two weeks for violating government directives to fight Covid-19.”
Each night, hundreds of people are gathered in stadiums – including the Amahoro National Stadium, which is guarded by armed police officers.
It appears that the stadium detainees are actually undergoing a less severe punishment as others in centres have experienced even longer periods of detention and are threatened with prosecution for “rebellion against the authorities.” A crime which carries a one-year prison sentence in Rwanda.
Nkusi Kabera, kept in the stadium overnight for breaking curfew, shared the predicament in which many Rwandans find themselves in light of these strict regulations, “Most countries in Europe give fines of 135 euros. For Rwandans like me, 135 euros is roughly 150,000 Rwandan francs. I’d rather spend the night in the stadium than spend 150,000 Rwandan francs on a fine.”
Mixed Feelings on Good Results
The police claim these arrests play a crucial role in beating the pandemic – in a country of over 12.5 million people with just over 2000 cases and 5 deaths. There are fewer than 900 working people and 280,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out. Numbers that show Rwanda scoring high in the fight to quell the pandemic – not only on the African continent, but on a global scale.
A good number of those arrested are journalists and bloggers investigating various aspects of the epidemic experience and handling in the country.