By Mark Mutahi
There was drama at the Gatuna border point when a Kenyan woman who has undergone numerous cosmetic plastic surgeries over the years was held and detained for hours while attempting to cross into Rwanda from Uganda.
Following a bill that was passed in 2008 plastics are not allowed into Rwanda. The middle-aged Kenyan woman, who preferred to only be referred to as Shantal was travelling to Rwanda to scout for business opportunities.
After being accosted Shantal’s initial reaction was typical Kenyan. At first she acted defensively and in the ensuing confrontation almost pinched the nose of the immigration official. Then when she realised the seriousness of the matter she tried another strategy. “Wacha tusikizane …”she was overheard pleading.
Unfortunately her approach didn’t work and she was forced to apologise profusely.
“The law is very clear,” an immigration official at the Gatuna border crossing, Cyrille Kwizera told her.
“We are not to allow into the country anything that is not biodegradable … regardless of whether it’s a polythene bags or not.”
So seriously is the ban on plastics taken in Rwanda that even the states neighbouring the central African country such as Burundi, Uganda and Democratic Republic Congo are always urging their citizens living along the Rwandese border not to allow the wind to blow plastic bags into Rwanda; lest it provokes border skirmishes and potentially a full scale war in the great lakes region.
Since the ban was enforced four years ago, it is commonplace for travellers crossing into the country to be thoroughly scrutinised and searched. So the question on everyone’s mind was why none of Shantal’s friends or business associates had warned her of the ban that has been in effect for that long.
“If I had tried warning her she would have accused me of being jealous of her new youthful looks!” a ‘friend’ of Shantal who sought anonymity admitted.
“It’s hell on earth being her friend … you can’t make the mistake of telling her the truth! Any friend of hers who has ever dared tell her the truth is an enemy now!”