According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Rwanda has been assessed as Level 1 – Exercise normal precautions.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Kigali does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Kigali as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Please review OSAC’s Rwanda-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
Crime in Rwanda is rarely violent. Pickpocketing in crowded public places is common, as is petty theft from cars, hotel rooms, and other public places, including churches. Thefts of portable/mobile computing devices are common.
Residential crime tends to be crime-of-opportunity, with unsecured items that are easy to transport and sell being stolen from yards or unsecured homes. There has been no increase in forcible entry of homes to commit robberies; however, homes are generally targeted when residents are not at home. U.S. citizens have reported a slight increase in residential theft throughout Kigali.
Although violent crimes such as assault, robbery, rape, and home invasion occur in Rwanda, they are rarely committed against foreigners. In 2017, however, the Embassy received several reports of late night assaults and robberies involving pedestrians, primarily in, but not limited to, the Kimihurura district of Kigali.
Theft of credit card and identity information is rare, but given the level of sophistication of potential criminal elements in Rwanda it is a reasonable possibility. While Rwandan police have a growing cybercrime fighting capability, individuals should practice the same protection of personally identifiable or private information that they would in the U.S.
For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Traffic moves on the right side of the road; however, due to Rwanda’s proximity to several former British colonies, there are a moderate number of right-side drive vehicles on the roads that create additional traffic and spatial awareness risks. There is no formal prohibition against registering right-side drive vehicles, so the risks associated with them will continue for the foreseeable future.
The paved roads in Rwanda are in relatively good condition, but during the rainy season many unpaved side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Nighttime driving, particularly outside major cities, is hazardous and is discouraged. Often, roadways have deteriorated surfaces, are not marked, and lack streetlights and/or shoulders. Due to possible language barriers and lack of roadside assistance, receiving help may be difficult. You may be stopped at police roadblocks throughout the country, where your vehicle and luggage may be searched. Service stations are available along main roads.
Exercise caution at traffic circles. Cars already in a traffic circle have the right-of-way, but up until 2004, cars entering traffic circles had the right-of-way. Excessive speed, careless driving, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are hazards. Many vehicles are not well-maintained, and headlights are either extremely dim or not used. Drivers tend to speed and pass other cars with little discretion. Some streets in Kigali have sidewalks or sufficient space for pedestrian traffic, while others do not, forcing pedestrians to walk along the roadway. Street lighting is limited, and drivers often have difficulty seeing pedestrians, cyclists, and livestock.
Third-party insurance is required for drivers and will cover any damages from involvement in an accident resulting in injuries, if you are found not to have been at fault. The driver’s license of individuals determined to have caused an accident may be confiscated for up to three months. Causing a fatal accident could result in three to six months' imprisonment. Drunk drivers are jailed for 24 hours and fined 20,000 Rwandan Francs (RWF) (approximately $30). Call 112 from any mobile phone to reach local police. Ambulance assistance is very limited but can be obtained in Kigali by dialing 912. In the event of an emergency, U.S. citizens can contact the Embassy duty officer at 078-838-3305.
Rwandan traffic laws prohibit the use of mobile phones while driving and, if apprehended, the driver will be fined 10,000 RWF (about $14). Hands-free devices may be used. After-market tinted window treatments are prohibited on all vehicles; those apprehended will be required to remove them. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
Public Transportation Conditions
U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from driving outside of cities after dark (1800hrs) and are not permitted to use motorcycle-taxis or mini-bus taxis. Due to safety and security concerns, the use of motorcycle-taxis or mini-bus taxis for transportation is not recommended. Regulated orange-striped (along the base of the vehicle) sedan auto taxis are safer, but agree on a fare before beginning your trip and make sure the vehicle has functioning seat belts. Public transportation can be dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance, and careless and inexperienced drivers.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Kigali as being a LOW-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution when traveling near the Rwanda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border given the possibility of renewed fighting between the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and armed rebel groups. The FARDC and peacekeepers of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) continue to engage in combat operations against armed rebel and militia groups in the DRC provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, which both border Rwanda. The security situation in these parts of eastern DRC remain unstable with sporadic but severe outbreaks targeting civilians, including rape, kidnapping, and pillaging, continue throughout North Kivu and South Kivu provinces. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) is an armed group that includes former soldiers and supporters of the regime that orchestrated the 1994 genocide and that continues to operate in eastern DRC, near the border with Rwanda.
Armed rebel groups are known to operate on the DRC side of Volcanoes National Park (aka Virunga National Park). Tourists should exercise extreme caution and avoid crossing the border into DRC while exploring the Rwandan side of the park. While the Rwandan armed forces actively patrol and secure their borders along DRC, a cross border incursion by an armed group from DRC cannot be ruled out where tourists maybe present.
In 2017, up to four persons carrying small arms weapons attacked villagers in Rusizi district, Bugarama Sector resulting in the death of one person and eight injured. Reports indicate that the attackers originated from DRC and launched the attack to embarrass the Rwandan government before the elections.
In 2016, Rwanda experienced three incidents of armed individuals crossing the border from eastern DRC and engaging with Rwandan armed forces. The most serious incident occurred in the Rwandan town of Bugeshi, which is located southwest of the Volcanoes National Park. A group of armed individuals attacked a police station and microfinance bank and inflicted casualties on Rwandan security forces. The FDLR claimed responsibility for this border incursion.
Grenade attacks aimed at the local populace in Rwanda have occurred on a recurring basis over the last five years. The two most recent grenade attacks occurred in 2014 in Ruhengeri (also known as Musanze). Remain vigilant; exercise caution; and avoid crowds, demonstrations, or any other form of public gatherings.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Kigali as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Protests are rare, but if they do occur they are generally peaceful. Any protest or rally requires a permit.
Religious and ethnic violence are not a significant issue in Rwanda. The law prohibits the propagation of ideas based on “ethnic, regional, racial, religious, language, or other divisive characteristics.”
Areas with potential concerns include the Mount Nyiragongo volcano, just outside the eastern DRC town of Goma near the Rwandan border. The volcano is active and last erupted in 2002, killing 47 people, destroying 15% of Goma, and leaving 120,000 people homeless.
In 2015, an earthquake centered in eastern DRC killed three people and injured many others. The U.S. Geological Service reported that it was a 5.8 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter located 125 kilometers west of Kigali. Tremors were reported in Kigali and western Rwanda.
Volcanic and seismic activity is the greatest threat to Rwanda’s critical infrastructure.
Drug abuse is not a significant problem, but marijuana is increasingly available. The Rwanda National Police (RNP) has interdicted drugs coming from the DRC and other border crossings. Persons caught with even small amounts of marijuana are subject to a prison term of up to five years.
There are no statistics on criminal kidnappings, and the number is suspected to be nominal. Any such incidents did not target expatriates. No government statistics on political or criminal kidnappings have been reported for 2017. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Kidnapping: The Basics.”
Despite professionalization and capacity building initiatives, the RNP lacks specialized skills (investigation, counter-terrorism, bomb disposal, forensics). 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 patrol neighborhoods to prevent residential crime. Police will often direct a victim to the nearest police station to register a complaint in person, as they are unable to respond to the caller. RNP leadership 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, and as a result, incidents are low. If you are victim of harassment or attempted bribery, contact the RNP dedicated hotline at 116 to report problems. If you are detained or arrested, you should comply with police instructions and contact the American Citizens Services (ACS) section of the U.S. Embassy immediately.
Crime Victim Assistance
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 Brigade: 078-831-1117
All aspects of Rwandan law enforcement are centralized under the Ministry of Justice. RNP is the lead agency for local policing and traffic violations, and the Rwandan Investigative Bureau (RIB) is in charge of major investigations.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.”
Available Air Ambulance Services
Flying Doctor Service, Nairobi:+254-20-315-454 or 254-20-315-455.
Sanitaire Ambulance Medical Urgence (SAMU): 912. A local, very basic ambulance service.Providers speak French and sometimes have English-speaking staff available to respond.This service does not provide paramedic-level care during transport.
Akagera Aviation, Kigali:+250-788-308-382.Provides helicopter medical evacuation within Rwanda, and from Rwanda to Uganda and Kenya.
A patient who is stable enough to travel can be evacuated outside Rwanda by plane to a medical center meeting Western 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. Medical evacuation from rural parts of Rwanda to Kigali by helicopter is available. These are extremely costly services, which patients must pay for themselves; medical evacuation insurance is highly recommended.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Rwanda.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Country Council in Kigali is active, meeting quarterly. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
The United States Embassy in Rwanda
2657 Avenue de la Gendarmerie (Kacyiru)
P.O. Box 28
Embassy Contact Numbers
Phone: (+250) 252 596 400
Between the hours of 7 p.m. – 7 a.m., contact the Duty Officer at 078-838-3305
U.S. citizens traveling to Rwanda are highly encouraged to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive any potential safety and security information while in-country.
Rwanda Country Information Sheet