KIGALI (Reuters) - A string of unrelated grenade attacks that killed four people and wounded several others across Rwanda showed the need to reduce the vast number of arms in society available for use by criminals, police said.
The attacks were connected to robberies, personal feuds and, in one instance, two witnesses in a genocide court case were killed, police spokesperson Eric Kayiranga said.
“December was an exceptional month (for attacks but) they are not related. There were three in December and one in January,” Kayiranga told Reuters.
Grenade attacks are common in the Great Lakes, where many of the devices were left over from the region’s many conflicts and are sometimes used to settle scores.
Kayiranga said some weapons were left over from the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed.
“We have been dealing with this by putting in mechanisms for disarmament but we can acknowledge that there are still some few who are keeping arms and in some cases they use them for criminal activities,” he said.
Rwandan security has taken a tough stance under President Paul Kagame, who says it is important to stop revenge attacks arising from the 100-day genocide in a country where many people live near the killers and their families.
A genocide survivor organisation has called for police to introduce stronger mechanisms to protect witnesses.
Freddy Mutanguha, of the genocide survivor organisation IBUKA, said 24 witnesses in genocide court cases were killed last year and more needed to be done to disarm civilians.
“We need the police ... to protect survivors and witnesses,” Mutanguha said. “The police should make sure that civilians are disarmed.”
Last year Rwanda destroyed 30,248 small arms and 70 tonnes of ordnance, including 1,332 hand grenades, according to the website of Mines Advisory Group, an international demining organisation.
Foreign embassies have not issued travel warnings but say they are monitoring the situation closely.