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The Rwandan People's Party Statement on the Rwandan government's failure to deal with recent fires in the country

by John V Karuranga
20 Jul 2014 at 08:48hrs | Views

It is the sacred duty of every government to defend the lives and property of its citizens. This the Rwandan government is failing to do. There has been a spate of fires that have caused death and destruction in Rwanda in recent times, that have shown the incompetence and often the wilful neglect of the Rwandan authorities.

Among the fires that have caused havoc in our country are;

The first of the recent spate of fires occurred on the 4-06-14 when there was a devastating outbreak of fire at the Muhanga, formerly Gitarama prison. This prison has expanded greatly since it was first built. Recent official figures show that 5,900 people are incarcerated in the prison. The prison holds many of those convicted for their involvement in the Genocide of Tutsi and moderate Hutus. The government has not informed the public of the extent of the damage to the prison.

For the second time in just over a month there was a prison fire. On the  08/07/14, a fire broke out in a prison in the Rubavu district. Reports say that at least five died and sixty were injured, all presumed to be prisoners.  There were 4000 inmates housed in the prison at the time. The death-toll could have been far higher. The cause of the fire is unknown according to police.

On the 10-7-14 a   terrifying fire swept through the commercial centre of Kigali, known as Quartier Matheus. It forced people to flee and to abandon their businesses. There are no reports of injuries. The Rwandan National police arrived on the scene and tried to fight the fire but were unable to prevent it spreading. The fire was out of control for a period of time. Scores of businesses' were damaged, some destroyed. Many business people are counting the cost of the fire, which is believed to have cause millions of Francs worth of damage. It is feared that many victims of the fire are uninsured.

On the 15-07-14. a fire destroyed a factory in the Gikondo Industrial area. There are no reports of injuries but the premises were badly damaged. The damage to the factory may result in job losses among the workers.

Also  on  the  same  day  a  well  known  Commercial  building  in  Nyabugobo  known  as  ‘Kwa Muntanga' was damaged by fire. The fire in the 12 floor building sent black smoke into the air that was seen for miles around. The police and army arrived and helped people to safety and salvaged some property. No one was injured but great damage and disruption was caused by the fire.

There have now been five major fire incidents in  Rwanda in recent weeks. The fires have cost lives and they have resulted in billions of Francs worth of losses, many of those whose property was damaged have no insurance. These incidents were not caused by arsonists. It is believed that most were caused by electrical faults such as faulty electric circuits. The fires show the Rwanda's  government  lack  of  support  for  fire  prevention.     The  government  also  is  not adequately funding the fire service. This has meant fire engines travelling long distances from the countryside to fight fires in Kigali.

The response of the Rwandan government has been inadequate and they have sought to ignore these terrible fires. Instead of having a policy of preventing fires the government is seeking to hide the seriousness of these fires from the Rwandan people. The Rwandan government is trying to hide the problem of fire safety in our country when it should be trying to put in place a national policy of fire prevention. The government should pay compensation to the families of those  who  died,  or  were  injured  by  the  fires.  The  Rwandan  government  should  also  offer compensation to those who lost property in these preventable fires.

We the RPP demand that the Rwandan government provide explanations for all these fires. It is a government's duty to keep its people informed. The Rwandan people are being kept in the dark and this is raising fears about the security situation in the country. The fires must be stopped from breaking out. It undermines Rwanda's reputation as a good place to do business in, and could undermine investor confidence. No one will invest in a country where fire is a great risk and where Healthy and Safety regulations are not followed.

The ISO recommendations from the Rwandan Bureau of Standards (RBS) were not enforced. We, the RPP demand that the Minister for Home Affairs and the Commissioner General of the Rwandan Correction's Service be sacked for failing to prevent the fires that cost billions of Francs and so many lives.

The Board of Directors of the Rwandan Bureau of Standards (RBS) should also be sacked for negligence and failure to do their duty. We also call on the Ministers for Labour, Industries and Housing to step down over the unprecedented fires that have brought such destruction and fear. They  permitted  the  construction  and  licensing  of  industries  and  other  workplaces  without Health or Fire and Safety regulations being enforced.

The Rwandan People's Party demand that stiff penalties be imposed, including prison sentences upon all those, who fail to obey the Health and Safety and Fire Regulations. Those who fail to obey  these  regulations  are  placing  people  and  property  at  risk  and  therefore  should  be punished, severely.

We the Rwandan People's Party have some recommendations that would prevent future outbreaks of fire.

 - There was no government policy to encourage business people to take out fire insurance

. As a result many businesses are uninsured and may not re-open after the fires.

 - Every Health, Fire and Safety regulation must be enforced and monitored at all times. This includes establishing fire assembly points and fire doors.

 - Fire Officer's and  Fire Marshals to be appointed to all public facilities such as prisons and hospitals.

 - Health and Safety training and awareness programs for all staff in government buildings and businesses'.

 - Health  and  Safety  Inspection  to  be  routinely  and  regularly  carried  out  by  qualified persons.
- Fire Drills to be held once a month.

 - Updating the fire fighting equipment for local institutions and business', these are to be regularly inspected.

 - Updating and modernising the Rwandan fire service.

There are several particular things that the government should promote to ensure there is no repeat of the recent fires in private and public buildings. The RPP recommends that every public or commercial building does the following to prevent an outbreak of fire

 - Fire   Risk assessment chart- this will identify how the staff should react to a fire and details the plans in dealing with a blaze.

 - There should be Power Point presentation for Staff Training on Fire and Health and Safety

 - There needs to be a checklist introduced for the inspection and maintenance of Fire Fighting Equipment.

 - Fire  Precaution  log  books  should  be  introduced.  This  will  ensure  that  fire  safety measures are part of the staff's routine.

 - Electrical Safety Check- there should be regular inspection of electrical equipment and lighting by qualified persons.

 - There needs to be a regular review of the fire risk assessment of the premises

The RPP believes that if these points are followed that Rwanda's people and property will be much safer from the threat of fire and its terrible consequences. The people of Rwanda deserve this at the very least.

God Bless Rwanda

Thank you all.

John V Karuranga, President Rwanda People's Party

Source - John V Karuranga