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Rwanda 2013 Crime and Safety Report

Africa > Rwanda > Kigali

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Rwanda has a low-to-moderate amount of crime, which is predominantly non-violent. Pick-pocketing in crowded public places is common, as is petty theft from cars, hotel rooms, and other public places, including churches. Although violent crimes such as carjacking, robbery, rape, and home invasion do occur, they are rarely committed against foreigners. Over the past year, however, the Embassy has received several reports of late night assaults and robberies involving pedestrians, primarily in, but not limited to, the Kiyovu district of Kigali. The Embassy has also noted an increase in reported residential burglary attempts throughout Kigali. 

Overall Road Safety Situation

Road conditions differ significantly from those in the United States. This information is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. In Rwanda, as in the United States, traffic moves on the right-hand side of the road. 

U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from driving outside Kigali city limits after dark (6:00 p.m.) and are not permitted to use motorcycle-taxis or mini-bus taxis. Regulated orange-striped (along the base of the vehicle) sedan auto taxis are safer, but be sure to agree on a fare before beginning your trip. Public transportation can be dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance, and careless drivers. 

The main roads are in relatively good condition, but during the rainy season, many side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Nighttime driving, particularly outside major cities, is hazardous and is discouraged. Often, roadways are not marked and lack streetlights and shoulders. Many sections have deteriorated surfaces. 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. 

You should exercise caution at traffic circles. Cars already in a traffic circle have the right-of-way, but before 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. Additional road hazards include cyclists, pedestrians, and livestock. 

Third-party insurance is required 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 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 $35). Call 311 from any mobile phone to reach local police. Ambulance assistance is very limited but can be obtained in Kigali by dialing 912. Wear seat belts and drive with care and patience at all times. In the event of an emergency, U.S. citizens can contact the Embassy duty officer at 078-830-0345. 

Rwandan traffic laws prohibit the use of mobile phones while driving and, if apprehended, the driver will be fined 10,000 RWF (about $18). Hands-free devices may be used. As of August 2010, after-market tinted window treatments are prohibited on all vehicles; those apprehended will be required to remove them. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Grenade attacks aimed at the local populace have periodically occurred in recent years. The most recent attacks took place on March 30, 2012 at two locations in Kigali: one at the Nyarugenge market in Kigali City Center, which injured four bystanders, and the second in front of local stores in Kangondo Village, which injured two bystanders. A January 24, 2012, attack at a bus stand in Gitarama injured 14 bystanders. A January 3, 2012, grenade attack in the Kibagabaga neighborhood of Kigali killed two and injured 16 bystanders. 

Civil Unrest

In April 2012, conflict erupted in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and M23, an armed group comprised of formerly integrated soldiers who defected. Ongoing fighting between those forces and among other armed groups has caused thousands of Congolese to enter northwest Rwanda as refugees. 

In mid-November 2012, cross-border fire landed inside Rwanda in the vicinity of Gisenyi. One week later, there was an incursion by armed militants near Mudende. In early December 2012, a small element of armed individuals allegedly crossed the border from eastern DRC and attacked a ranger camp northwest of Kinigi. The attack, which occurred just south of Volcanoes National Park, left one park ranger dead. The government has accused the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) of responsibility for these incursions. 

Protests are rare, generally peaceful, and require a permit. 

Religious or Ethnic Violence

Religious and ethnic violence are not a significant issue. The law prohibits the propagation of ideas based on “ethnic, regional, racial, religious, language, or other divisive characteristics.”    

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

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 percent of Goma and leaving 120,000 people homeless. 

In February 2008, an earthquake centered in eastern DRC killed 38 people and injured 292 residents in the Rwandan border town of Cyangugu. The U.S. Geological Service reported that a magnitude 4.9 earthquake with an epicenter 13 kilometers westnorthwest of Ntungamo, Uganda, occurred on November 20, 2012 at 7:23 p.m. Tremors were reported in Kigali and the northwest portion of Rwanda. No damage to infrastructure was reported. 

Privacy Concerns. 

Theft of portable/mobile computing devices is common. 

Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones

There are no restricted travel areas for U.S. Embassy personnel; however, there were several brief periods in 2012 when the U.S. Embassy issued Travel Warnings due to unrest along the northwest border region with the DRC. 

Drug-related Crimes

Drug abuse is not a significant problem, but marijuana is becoming increasingly available. The Rwanda National Police (RNP) has interdicted drugs coming in from the DRC. 

Kidnapping Threats 

There were a nominal number of alleged political kidnappings reported by NGOs in 2012. There are no statistics on criminal kidnappings; the number is suspected to be nominal. Any such incidents did not target ex-patriates. 

Police Response

Despite professionalization and capacity building initiatives, the RNP lacks specialized skills, such as investigation, counter-terrorism, bomb disposal, and 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 also 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. The 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, 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 detained or arrested, you should comply with police instructions and contact the American Citizens Services (ACS) section of the U.S. Embassy immediately. The phone number for ACS is listed below.

Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime

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

Various Police/Security Agencies 

All aspects of Rwandan law enforcement are centralized under one agency: the Rwandan National Police (RNP). 

Medical Emergencies

A patient who is stable enough to travel can be evacuated 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. These are extremely costly services, which the patient must pay for themselves; medical evacuation insurance is highly recommended.

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics

King Faisal Hospital
SAMU - on a cell phone dial 912
King Faisal Hospital 
P.O. Box 2534 
Kigali, Rwanda
Tel: (+250) 252. 589905, (+250) 252. 589577, (+250) 252. 588888, (+250) 252. 582659, (+250) 252. 582655
Fax: (+250) 252 583203

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

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

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

There are no widespread scams known to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda. 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 to be Avoided and Best Security Practices

There are no “off limits” areas, but visitors should exercise caution in crowded markets, night clubs, and any tourist areas. 

Visitors 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. 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. Individuals should practice the same protection of personally identifiable or private information that they would in the United States.

When driving, lock car doors and do not leave any valuables visible. Avoid taking non-metered or van taxis. Due to safety and security concerns, the use of motorcycle-taxis or mini-bus taxis for transportation is not recommended. Do not share a taxi with someone you do not know.

Inform a friend or family member of your schedule.

U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information

Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation 

The United States Embassy in Rwanda
2657 Avenue de la Gendarmerie (Kacyiru)
P.O. Box 28 Kigali, Rwanda

Business Hours: Monday to Thursday: 08:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Friday: 08:00 a.m. to 01:00 p.m.

Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers

Phone: (250) 252 596 400
Fax: (250) 252 596 771
Fax: (250) 252 596 591
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 Information

An OSAC 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, 
David Young, Assistant Regional Security Officer (250) 596-400 ext 2422 or 078-830-5137,