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Rwanda 2014 Crime and Safety Report

Africa > Rwanda; Africa > Rwanda > Kigali

Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Crime Threats

Rwanda has a low-moderate amount of crime, which is rarely violent. Petty theft such as pick pocketing, purse snatching and theft of electronics (especially phones and blackberries) are common. Pickpocketing 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, occur in Rwanda, 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. U.S. citizens have reported an increase in residential burglaries throughout Kigali. 

Overall Road Safety Situation

The information below concerning Rwanda is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

The paved roads 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. Service stations are available along main roads. 

Road conditions may differ significantly from those in the United States. In Rwanda, as in the United States, traffic moves on the right side of the road. However, due to Rwanda’s proximity to several former British colonies, there is an abundance of right-hand drive vehicles on the roads that create traffic and spatial awareness risks. There is no formal prohibition against registering right-hand drive vehicles, so the risks associated with them will continue for the forseeable future. 

Wear seat belts and drive with care and patience at all times. You should exercise caution at traffic circles. Cars already in a traffic circle have the right-of-way, but 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 cars with little discretion. Some streets in Kigali have sidewalks or sufficient space for pedestrian traffic, while others do not, so pedestrians are forced to walk along the roadway. Street lighting is limited, and drivers often have difficulty seeing pedestrians, cyclists, and livestock. 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.

You may be stopped at police roadblocks throughout the country, where your vehicle and luggage may be searched. 

Third-party insurance is required and will cover 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. In the event of an emergency, U.S. citizens can contact the Embassy duty officer at 078-830-0345. 

U.S. Embassy personnel 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. Public transportation can be dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance, and careless drivers. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence 

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Grenade attacks aimed at the local populace have occurred in recent years. The most recent attacks took place in January 2014 in Musanze and in September 2013 in Kigali at the Kicukiro market. The Kigali attack resulted in two fatalities and 18 injuries to market patrons and workers. 

Civil Unrest

In 2012 and 2013, there was fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and the M23, an armed group of mostly soldiers who defected from the FARDC. While M23 was defeated militarily in November 2013, the FARDC and UN peacekeepers continued to engage in combat operations against other armed groups in the DRC state of North Kivu, which borders Rwanda. In late August 2013, cross-border fire landed in Rubavu district, including within Gisenyi. The government blamed these indicidents on the FARDC. 

In early December 2012, a small element of armed individuals 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 ranger dead. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) claimed responsibility for this incursion. The 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.

Protests are rare, generally peaceful and require a permit. 

Religious or Ethnic Violence 

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.” 

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 located 13 kilometers west-northwest of Ntungamo, Uganda, occurred on November 20, 2012 at 1923 hours. Tremors were reported in Kigali and the northwest portion of Rwanda. No damage to infrastructure in Rwanda was reported.
Privacy Concerns

Thefts of portable/mobile computing devices are common. Individuals should practice the same protection of personally identifiable or private information that they would in the United States. 
Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones

U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited outside cities after dark (6:00 p.m.).

There are currently no restricted travel areas for U.S. Embassy personnel in Rwanda; however, there were several brief periods in 2013 when the U.S. Embassy issued Travel Warnings due to unrest along the northwest border region with the DRC. The U.S. Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens exercise extreme caution when traveling near the Rwanda-DRC border, given the possibility of renewed fighting.

Drug-related Crimes
Drug abuse is not a significant problem, but marijuana is increasingly available. The Rwanda National Police (RNP) has interdicted drugs from the DRC.
Kidnapping Threats 

There were a nominal number of alleged political kidnappings reported by NGOs in 2013. There are no statistics on criminal kidnappings, and the number is suspected to be nominal. Any such incidents did not target expatriates. 

Police Response 
Despite professionalization and capacity building initiatives, the RNP lacks specialized skills (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, so 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 

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics 

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

A patient who is stable enough to travel can be evacuated from 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 the patient must pay for himself; medical evacuation insurance is highly recommended. 

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. Akagera Aviation – Kigali – +250-788-308-382 – provides provides helicopter medical evacuation within Rwanda and from Rwanda to Uganda and Kenya.

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

Areas to be Avoided 

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

Best Situational Awareness Practices 

Visitors are urged to take personal responsibility for their own security by being vigilant and taking common sense precautions. It is prudent to be vigilant and maintain situational awareness. Visitors, and especially women, should avoid walking alone in unlit areas in the evening. Maintain a low profile. 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 overindulging 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.

Inform a friend or family member of your schedule.

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 Kigali, Rwanda

Embassy Contact Numbers 

Phone: (250) 252 596 400
Fax: (250) 252 596 771 or (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 Country Council has been established in Kigali and meets annually. 

Points of contact: Peter P. Thiede, Regional Security Officer (250) 596-400 ext 2501 or 078-830-0542, and David Young, Assistant Regional Security Officer (250) 596-400 ext 2422 or 078-830-5137,