Rwandan Police Ship Thieves And The Homeless To Remote Island

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From the NY Times:

IWAWA ISLAND, Rwanda — A few months ago, Gasigwa Gakunzi was hanging around a ramshackle house where poor children pay to watch television when the Rwandan police arrested him for loitering. The next thing he knew, he said, he was taken away from his family and carted off to this remote island in the middle of Lake Kivu.

Gasigwa, 14, now spends his days learning patriotic songs and how to march like a soldier. At night, he sleeps in a huge sheet-metal shed with hundreds of men and boys packed mattress to mattress.

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“Please call my father,” he whispered. “He has no idea where I am.”

Nearly 900 beggars, homeless people and suspected petty thieves, including dozens of children, have recently been rounded up from the nation’s neatly swept streets and sent — without trial or a court appearance — to this little-known outpost. They will spend up to three years here being “rehabilitated,” learning skills like bricklaying, hairdressing and motorcycle maintenance.

It is one of the country’s newest self-improvement projects, and it seems a fitting symbol for what many political analysts and human rights groups say Rwanda has become: orderly but repressive.

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