Police in Ngororero District conducted an operation to protect environment and arrested 21 people in connection with illegal mining and illegally cutting down trees in a protected area.
The suspects who are currently held at Kavumu Police station are accused of mining without a license and encroaching on a government gazetted forest and cutting down trees.
According to the District Police Commander (DPC), Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Marc Gasangwa, the suspects were found with no license to mine although they claim that their employer had a license.
“We are still investigating these people but in the meantime we are reminding the public that illegal mining and tree felling are practices that are punishable by law. There are legal channels to authorise miners; you must have a license and all the required equipment for safe mining,” said the DPC.
He further pointed out that; “Mining requires skills and knowledge, if it’s done wrongly, a lot is at risk including people’s lives that’s why it’s a profession that requires expertise.”
With regards to tree felling, SSP Gasangwa outlined a number of laws that punish illegal cutting and transportation of trees – among them being the organic law determining the modalities of protection, conservation and promotion of environment in Rwanda prohibits the felling of trees in forests and protected areas.
“By law, to cut down trees, someone has to first acquire a license from the Sector which these people did not have. Deforestation contributes to environment degradation, which in one way or another has an effect on people’s health and the economy in general and we can’t allow that,” he said.
As per the penal code, the suspects risk a jail term of up to one year and a fine of up to Rwf 10 million for illegal mining as stipulated in article 438.
With regards to tree-cutting SSP Gasangwa pointed out that Article 416 of the Rwanda Penal Code provides for punishment to anyone who cuts trees or who causes others to do so – and the punishments can be a prison term of six months to two years and a fine of Rwf300, 000 to Rwf2 million or one of these penalties.
RNP established and Environmental Protection Unit (EPU) that operates under the Criminal Investigation Department, and mandated to protect the environment in all aspects, including air space, forestry, waters , biodiversity, as well as the enforcement of different legal instruments.