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Rwanda 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report

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Rwanda 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report

Overall Crime and Safety Situation 

Crime Threats

On a rating scale of low, medium, high, and critical, Rwanda is rated “medium” for crime.   Socio-economic factors in Rwanda are stable and improving, with incomes rising most quickly in the capital, Kigali.  Attempted home robberies, automobile break-ins, pick-pocketing, purse snatchings, and theft of vehicle accessories in Kigali do occur, but most crimes committed in Rwanda are non-violent. 

Road Safety

Driving is arguably the greatest hazard to living in Rwanda.  Many drivers travel at unsafe speeds, ignore standard safe driving procedures, and take unnecessary risks without regard to pedestrians and other drivers.  Compounding this problem is that many vehicles are poorly maintained.  Road conditions for major arteries range from good to adequate, but many secondary roads are unpaved and require a four wheel drive to maneuver.  Rwandan roads are mountainous, circuitous and poorly lit.  Road hazards include motorcycle and van taxis which often drive erratically.  Pedestrian traffic, including children darting into the road, is also a problem.  The general population often walks on the road, especially outside Kigali, throughout the day and during the hours of darkness.   

Political Violence

Historical perspective

Since the 1994 genocide, political violence in Rwanda has been rare.  However, the Congo-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group continues to operate along Rwanda’s western border and has been linked to grenade attacks throughout Rwanda, to include Kigali.   Regional terrorism and organized crime:  The terrorist group Al-Shabbab operates in the region, but has not targeted western interests in Rwanda.  There are no known domestic organized crime groups in Rwanda. 

International terrorism or transnational terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world, including in East Africa, and U.S. Embassy Kigali website publishes world-wide warnings and security notices for Rwanda on its web site:  As in previous years, there were a number of grenade explosions in Rwanda, including Kigali.  Typically, grenades were detonated in non-tourist, crowded areas where the attackers could easily escape by motorcycle.  No one has claimed responsibility for these events, and investigations continue.

There are no known international terrorism groups in Rwanda and the Government of Rwanda (GOR) does not support any terrorist organizations.  The U.S. Department of State rates the threat of transnational terrorism in Rwanda as “medium.”  The border regions are porous, making it easy to cross through Rwanda to another country.  

Civil unrest

The U.S. Department of State rates the threat of political violence in Rwanda as “low.”  Protests are generally peaceful and typically planned ahead of time. 

Post-Specific Concerns

Environmental hazards, such as earthquakes and floods

Areas with potential concerns include the Mount Nyiragongo volcano, just outside the eastern DRC town of Goma and near the Rwandan border.  The volcano is active and last erupted on January 17, 2002 killing 47 people, destroying 15% of Goma and leaving 120,000 people homeless. In February, 2008, an earthquake centered in eastern Congo killed 38 people and injured 292 residents in the Rwandan border town of Cyangugu.  Another area of concern is Lake Kivu, in northeastern Rwanda, which is saturated in high levels of methane and carbon dioxide gases. Due to this distinct chemistry, Lake Kivu, along with Lakes Nyos and Monoun in Cameroon, is one of three known lakes in the world that have the potential to explode.  This phenomenon is also known as “limnic eruption,” lake “upheaval,” or “overturning.”  While probability of an explosion cannot be determined, the potential impact from an explosion could be catastrophic due to the high concentration of residents in the lake basin--approximately two million.

Industrial and Transportation Accidents

The most significant threat to personal safety is the risk of a vehicular accident.  U.S. Embassy Kigali recommends (and mandates for personnel under COM authority) not to drive outside the city limits during hours of darkness and/or in extreme inclement weather.  Traffic accidents due to fog, mountainous roads, pedestrians in the road, and poor drivers are common.  In addition, medical or police services may not be able to reach you in a timely manner should you be involved in an accident. 

Drug and Narcoterrorism

Drug abuse is not a significant problem in Rwanda, but marijuana is becoming increasingly available.  The Rwanda National Police (RNP) believe drug smugglers bring the drugs in from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).    

Police Response

Despite professionalization and capability building initiatives, the RNP still lacks specialized skills such as investigation, counter-terrorism, bomb disposal, forensics, and interviewing skills.  The RNP’s material resources are extremely limited, and police are unable to respond to an emergency call in a timely manner.  A mix of defense and police elements conduct presence patrols in the city, but are more focused on preventing terrorism than crime.  Community watch groups also patrol neighborhoods to prevent residential crime.  Often the police will direct a victim to the nearest police station to register a complaint in person, as they are unable to respond to the caller.  The RNP management acknowledges these challenges and is striving to improve its operations and reputation.   

How to handle incidents of police detention or harassment

Corruption is not tolerated in Rwanda, and as a result, the incidence of corruption is low.  If you are victim of harassment or attempted bribery, contact the RNP dedicated hotline at 116 to report problems.  If you are arrested, you should contact the American Citizens Services (ACS) section of the U.S. Embassy immediately.  The phone number for ACS is listed in the “Further Information” paragraph.

Where to turn for assistance if you become a victim of a crime and local police telephone numbers:

Gicumbi (Byumba) Brigade:                        078-831-1144

Rusizi (Cyangugu) Brigade:             078-831-1136

Nyamagabe (Gikongoro) Brigade:             078-831-1131

Rubavu (Gisenyi) Brigade:                           078-831-1149

Muhanga (Gitarama) Brigade:                    078-831-1129

Huye (Butare) Brigade:                                078-831-1127

Ngoma (Kibungo) Brigade:                         078-831-1158

MVK Brigade:                                               078-831-1125

Musanze (Ruhengeri) Brigade:                   078-831-1146

Kigali City:                                                     112  Emergency number

Kigali Brigade:                                              078-831-1124

Remera Brigade:                                          078-831-1121

Gikondo Brigade:                                         078-831-1140

Muhima Brigade                                           078-831-1122

Nyamirambo Brigade:                                  078-831-1123

Kicukiro Brigagde:                                        078-831-1117

Medical Emergencies

The best resource for visitors who require emergency medical care is King Faisal Hospital located in Kacyiru, Kigali in the vicinity of the Umabano Hotel.  The hospital has an Emergency and Assessment (E&A) center open 24 hours with a physician on the premises at all times.  Many of the medical staff speak English.  The hospital provides the highest standard of care available in Rwanda, and it was recently accredited.  A patient who is stable enough to travel can be evacuated by plane to a medical center meeting U.S. standards.  This must be arranged by a physician who has evaluated and stabilized the patient.  Depending on the circumstances, a commercial flight may be used for transport, or an air ambulance may be required.  These are extremely costly services, which the patient must pay for themselves; medical evacuation insurance is highly recommended.

There is a local, very basic ambulance service called SAMU (Sanitaire Ambulance Medical Urgence).  Providers speak French and sometimes have English speaking staff available to respond.  This service does not provide paramedic-level care during transport.

For information on infectious disease risks and recommendations in Rwanda, see

Medical contact information

SAMU - on a cell phone dial 912

King Faisal Hospital – 252 588888

Air ambulance services

Flying Doctor Service – Nairobi- 254-20-315-454 or 254-20-315-455                                                                                                                               

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

There are currently no widespread scams known to U.S. Embassy Kigali.  Petty theft such as pick pocketing, purse snatching and theft of electronics (especially phones and blackberries) are common.  Violent crime is not common, but does occur on occasion.

Areas of town to be avoided and best security practices

There are no “off limits” areas in Rwanda, but visitors should exercise caution in crowded markets, night clubs, and any tourist areas.  Visitors to Rwanda are urged to take personal responsibility for their own security by being vigilant and taking common sense precautions.  Visitors, and especially women, should avoid walking alone in unlit areas in the evening.

Maintain a low profile.  As is standard practice throughout the world, be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.  If you are a victim of a robbery, it is advisable to give up your valuables and not resist.  Travel in groups, be aware of your surroundings, stay in well lit areas, and do not carry or display expensive jewelry/accessories and/or money.  Women should keep purses zipped and in front of them.  Men should keep wallets hidden in their front pocket, especially in crowded areas.  Women should not leave purses unattended or hanging on the back of a chair.  Avoid over indulging in alcohol.

Theft of electronic items is common.  Keep cell phones, Blackberries, IPods, and other electronics out of sight.  Valuables in hotels or residences should be locked or stored in a safe. 

When driving, lock car doors and do not leave any valuables visible in the vehicle.  Avoid taking non-metered or van taxis. Do not share a taxi with someone you do not know, and negotiate the cost before you get in.

Inform a friend or family member of your schedule.

Further Information

Embassy contact numbers:  

Embassy:  (250) 596-400

Regional Security Officer:     (250) 596-400 ext 2501 or ext 2422

American Citizen Services:  (250) 596-400 ext 2631.  Between the hours of 7 p.m. – 7 a.m., contact the Duty Officer.

Duty Officer:  078-830-0345

OSAC Country Council

An OSAC country council has been established in Kigali and meets annually. 

Points of contact

Matthew A. Shedd, Regional Security Officer (250) 596-400 ext 2501 or 078-830-0542


Duncan Tye, Asst. Regional Security Officer (250) 596-400 ext 2422 or 078-830-5137,