The houses along the quiet tree-lined street look just like the normal homes found all across the Rwandan capital.
But behind the walls of the three adjoining villas in Kigali are the headquarters of a global operation involving investigators and prosecutors who are working to track down the very worst killers of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
Inside, French investigators have come to talk to witnesses and to gather evidence.
A Norwegian team is also on site.
All are supported by Rwanda’s Genocide Fugitive Tracking Unit (GFTU), a special team created in 2007 to prosecute the architects behind the slaughter of some 800,000 mostly Tutsi victims.
“The mandate was to investigate and compile case files for the fugitives who were still at large,” said Faustin Nkusi, spokesman for the National Public Prosecution Authority, which oversees the unit.
After the bloodshed, many perpetrators escaped.
Some were arrested and taken to the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), based in Tanzania. That court closed in 2015 after several dozen convictions.
For many of those who carried out the killings, justice has been at a local level through community tribunals known as “gacaca” courts.
Between 2005 and 2012, these courts put nearly two million people on trial, with some two-thirds of cases resulting in a conviction.
But the search for justice continues.
A quarter of a century after the genocide, Rwanda is as determined as ever to make sure the key suspects are arrested and put on trial over the killings.
Many are still at large, scattered all over the world.
The GFTU has issued 1,012 international arrest warrants for suspects in 32 countries.
Several are in neighbouring nations like Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Tanzania.
Others are further afield in places like Kenya, Malawi and Zambia. And still others fled to Europe, North America or even Australia.
Key suspects on the run include Felicien Kabuga, once one of Rwanda’s richest men who is accused of financing the genocide, who was reportedly spotted in Kenya.
Another is Augustin Bizimana, a former defence minister believed to be hiding in DR Congo.
The team is having an impact: 19 people who were allegedly involved in plotting the genocide have been arrested and returned to Rwanda for trial, while 22 others have been tried abroad.
But this is only a drop in the ocean.
When the gacaca process closed in 2012, the courts handed the GFTU a list of nearly 72,000 fugitives who had been sentenced in absentia.
And tracking down all those people along with other remaining suspects is tough.
“It’s not easy,” Nkusi said.
“We don’t have the upper hand in investigating and arresting. We have to work together with other institutions from those countries.”
The GFTU team, which involves both investigators and prosecutors, works with teams across the world, including their judicial counterparts in countries where suspects are hiding.
It also works with UN experts and the international policing agency, Interpol.
Investigators face many challenges: by now, suspects have grown much older and have had years to perfect their changed identity as well as to slip across borders.
Some have obtained political asylum.
After Rwanda abolished the death penalty in 2007, countries were encouraged to send suspects home.
In recent years, suspects have been extradited from United States, Canada and The Netherlands.
Other nations, however, argue that they do not have extradition treaties with Rwanda while also demonstrating a reluctance to try suspects themselves.
“We wish they would be brought back to the country, to the scene of crime,” said Nkusi, but pointed out that some countries were “not politically willing to do that”.
France, which denies Kigali’s accusations of supporting the Hutu regime that planned the genocide, has refused multiple requests from Rwanda to extradite suspects.
So far, only one former Rwandan army officer and two mayors have been sentenced in France.
“They have an obligation to judge these people,” said Nkusi.
With Rwanda set this month to mark a quarter of a century since the genocide, Nkusi hopes the speed of extraditions will increase.
“Justice has to be done,” Nkusi said.
“People have to be arrested. People have to be tried—to either be found innocent or be convicted.”
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
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Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
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Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.