On 5 June, a fire partly gutted Muhanga Central Prison (formerly Gitarama Central Prison), in Rwanda's Southern province. The prison, which can hold at least 6,000 people, saw the accommodation of 3,500 detainees go up in flames. Eyewitnesses described the blaze as "extremely severe." The cause is still unknown. According to the spokesperson for the Rwanda Correctional Services, the detainees were not in their cells when the fire started, as routine fumigation was taking place to protect them against harmful insects.
A fire partly gutted Muhanga Central Prison, in Rwanda's Southern province. The prison, which can hold at least 6,000 people, saw the accommodation of 3,500 detainees go up in flames. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC
The Rwanda Correctional Services moved the detainees whose housing had been destroyed to two nearby facilities: Mpanga Central Prison, which took in 2,000 detainees, and Huye Central Prison, which accepted the remaining 1,500. Although no casualties were reported, the detainees lost most of their belongings. It will take months to build new accommodation in Muhanga so that the detainees can return.
To help the authorities meet the urgent needs of the transferred detainees, the ICRC is making a water tanker available to Huye Central Prison for 10 days. In addition, it has provided 475 blankets for detainees accommodated in an open hangar in the prison. This week, the ICRC plans to deliver 1,700 planks for triple bunk beds, 3,000 additional blankets, clothing for about 1,500 detainees, and tools and supplies needed to evacuate debris from Muhanga Central Prison. The aid should enable the prison authorities, who are responsible for housing more than 50,000 detainees, to prevent any deterioration of the conditions in which the detainees moved from Muhanga are being held.
Visiting detainees now constitutes a major part of the ICRC's work in Rwanda. The aim of the visits is to ensure that the living conditions of detainees are as close as possible to accepted international standards. The ICRC is gradually adapting its support as the authorities acquire the ability and means to meet their responsibilities on their own.