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How hard it is to recover a stolen phone in Rwanda

30 May, at 09 : 03 AM Print

m_How hard it is to recover a stolen phone in Rwanda

Recovering stolen mobile phone handsets in Rwanda has become the most tasking aspect for both telecommunication companies and mobile phone users, as a result of phone thieves becoming smarter latey.

As more people tend towards buying Smart phones in this century, the issue of increasing numbers of stolen mobile phones has become rampant and many mobile phone users have expressed dissatisfaction over the tracking system and procedures used by MTN Rwanda in collaboration with the Rwanda police.

MTN Rwanda is so far the only telecommunication service provider who have the capacity and authorization to do the whole exercise of tracking and recovering stolen phones and other telecommunication companies have not ventured into this service.

Hectic procedures

MTN and The National Police have joined hands to fight the theft of mobile phones by introducing a system that will enable the police to track down the user of a stolen phone as long as it is on MTN Network.

MTN customers who lose their mobile phones are required to report to the nearest Police Station where they fill a claim form and in addition provide the following information: Proof of ownership, preferably a copy of the receipt indicating phone make, model and serial number and provide copy of Identity document, and then wait to be called when the phone is recovered.

A police unit had been set up to manage these phone theft cases to which MTN will provide information that will lead to the capture of stolen phones.

Until recently, this used to be done with help of one police officer stationed at each district police unit (DPU) and charged specifically to follow up these cases; but new procedures indicate that only one police officer is allowed to follow up these cases in the whole city of Kigali, making it even hard to have hope for recovering a stolen phone.

But Central Region Police Spokesperson, Chief Superintendent Urbain Mwiseneza doesn’t agree with the fact that recovering a stolen phone handset is a hectic procedure service.

“it is not true to say that the service doesn’t work. We track these phones and we are able to recover them even when there have been changes in the numbers of people in charge of tracking the stolen phones. Even as we speak now am going to help a foreigner who lost his phone” Mwiseneza said in phone interview.

Officials of MTN Rwanda were approached on phone and email to comment on the changes in the tracking procedures, how it will affect the system, and to explain why the tracking system is hectic but in vain.

However, on the MTN official website the telecom company states that: “MTN together with the National Police of Rwanda is determined to do everything to halt the crime of mobile phone thefts. This is to demonstrate that we at MTN are willing to tackle this social issue and participate in finding a solution to the benefit of our esteemed customers.”

Unbeatable game

Once found guilty, the suspects faces six to two years imprisonment and a fine of two to five times the value of the stolen property or one of these penalties as stipulated under to article 300 of the penal code.

Even with this law in existence, the thieves have not succumbed to fear of being punished, and have instead thought it wiser turning to targeting Smartphone handsets in public places and in the late night moments-where their victims are vulnerable.

In this case, the thieves especially those who snatch high end phones, have resorted to evading victimization by the law and resorted to sending these phones to neighboring countries especially Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi and the reverse is true for their counterparts who send the phones to Rwanda for sale.

Though once in a while police mounts operations on phone thieves and phone dealers, those who have lost their phones also have a problem with centers within Kigali city where second-hand phones are sold and suspect that these could be the reason why phone thefts are escalating

Apparently MTN Rwanda only tracks phones on its network, meaning that once one looses a phone on the other networks, the chances of recovering it are farfetched.

“I was personally told by the MTN tracking team that my phone couldn’t be seen on the network yet I reported the case and went to their offices in person.”  Ange Giraneza said

Even with the existing technology, MTN in Rwanda or Uganda completely cannot enter into this venture of tracking a phone across the boarders and in the end the game is in favor of the thieves working across the borders- which have been opened with the EAC integration.

“If MTN cannot track our phones, they need to do better than just being our service providers. It seems like they (MTN) are aiding the thieves to be good at this game, since the phones cannot be tracked here.” Esiac Kabonero says.

Pursue or forget

There are no concrete statistics of how many stolen phones have been recovered so far but the numbers of cases of stolen phones is evidently an issue that has hit Kigali.

Fatuma Kayitesi recounts how motorbike transporter operators snatched her and her girl friend’s female handbags in two separate intervals in Nyamirambo, an outskirt of Kigali city

“We had moved out late night and we took motorbikes to go home. In one of the instances, I alighted off and as I was trying to pay the motorbike man, he fled off with my handbag which contained my phone and identifications, Kayitesi narrates.

For Kayitesi, though it was sad that she and her friend lost their phones, it was not deemed possible that she would recover this property even when it was costly.

“I didn’t bother to report to the police and go through that tasking process of recovering the phones because I have not seen anyone get his/ her phone back. Why would I have to waste my time when I know it was not going to happen?” she asks.

Reports indicate that in many cases the police and MTN advise the victims to buy other mobile phones. The reason being that since the money they (police) would use in recovering the stolen phones is equivalent to the amount of a new one.

“The way the MTN and police is handling cases of stolen phones doesn’t give on hope. Once one looses a phone, they go to the nearest police station, thinking they will get a help but in vain. As clients of MTN we deserve better services in this area. If it’s an issue of technology, they should upgrade it to track phone through the region”

Some breakthroughs

Some persons have however in the past managed to get help from police to recover their phones especially if the theft incident happens in front of the law enforcers and immediately addressed.

Robert Mugabo says that not until someone pick-pocketed my handset that I believed the force could really recover them.

“This was the worst day of my life because I had business appointments with my partners and the only means of communication was by telephone. I could hardly believe that that very same day the police recovered my handset.  It was a miracle I think.” He says.

In September, 2013 that Police in Nyarugenge recovered 103 handsets stolen recently after thieves broke into one of the phone shops in the city centre.

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