Top Rwandan environmental body chief held on corruption charges

BEHIND BARS: Dr. Rose Mukankomeje, head of Rwanda Environment Management Agency (REMA).

BEHIND BARS: Dr. Rose Mukankomeje, head of Rwanda Environment Management Agency (REMA).

Rwanda’s top environment expert and Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Agency (REMA), Dr. Rose Mukankomeje has been arrested by Rwanda national police over allegations of corruption.

Dr. Mukankomeje has been at the realm of implementing some of the stiffest environmental policies in Rwanda, which include the elimination of polythene bags in the country.

She is the recipient of the 2013 United Nations Forum on Forests award and her arrest came on the same day when Rwanda joined the rest of the world to mark the international forests day.

Mukankomeje’s arrest also comes just days after President Paul Kagame raised a red alert over lingering cases of corruption in the country and said that there will be zero tolerance for corruption practices in Rwanda.

At the recent 13th National Leadership Retreat, held in Gabiro, eastern province of Rwanda, the Rwandan leader said that even when it is hard to completely eliminate the vice in the country, leaders will have to be held accountable and corruption punishment will go to both the recipient and giver.

The spokesperson of Rwandan Police ACP Celestin Twahirwa, confirmed the arrest of REMA boss saying that her charges are related to the case and crime investigations against former Rutsiro district officials.

“Mukankomeje has been arrested and she is being investigated for a corruption case which involves the former Mayor and executive of Rutsiro district and obstruction of justice.” ACP Twahirwa told local media outlets.

The district officials include Gaspard Byukusenge the former mayor of Rutsiro district and Thomas Murenzi, the former executive secretary of Rutsiro district- who were arrested earlier this month but are yet to be charged.

The two were arrested following a row between Rutsiro district and a private developer of a district hotel/ tourism center – which has suffered construction delays since 2012 under unclear circumstances

In the wake of this case, the private contractor, Nathanael Hitimana, who was contracted to construct hotel apartments, claimed that he has paid out over Rwf100millions in bribes to district officials and the district tender committee for the Rwf 950m project.

In the same district, residents had raised a red flag over Rwf 25millions meant for a hydro power plant in Rusebeya Sector which was allegedly embezzled by the former district executive secretary.

The 2015 Transparency International Rwanda report indicates that there are still high incidences of corruption among public institutions especially the national police of Rwanda.

The research findings indicate that though the perceptions of citizens on corruption have increased, more efforts are needed to curb corruption tendencies, which have affected the country’s development and service delivery.

Rwandan Police and local government institutions account for 42 % of cases of corruption in Rwanda and have the highest  likelihood of bribe incidences with police at 6.3 % followed by local government  and the judiciary at 4.7% and 3.7% respectively.