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Rwanda 2015 Crime and Safety Report

Africa > Rwanda; Africa > Rwanda > Kigali

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Rating: Medium

Crime Threats

Petty theft (pickpocketing, purse snatching, theft of electronics (phones, Blackberries)) are common. Pickpocketing in crowded public places is common, as is petty theft from cars, hotel rooms, and other public places, including churches. 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. Thefts of portable/mobile computing devices are common. Theft of credit card and identity information is rare, but given the level of sophistication of potential criminal elements, it is a reasonable possibility.

Violent crime is not common, but does occur on occasion. Crime is rarely violent. Although violent crimes (carjacking, robbery, rape, home invasion) do occur, they are rarely committed against foreigners. There has been an increase in forcible entry of homes to commit robberies; however, homes are generally targeted when residents are not at home. In 2014, 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. 

Cyber

While Rwandan police have a growing cyber crime fighting capability, individuals should practice the same protection of personally identifiable or private information that they would in the United States. 

Areas of Concern

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

Transportation-Safety Situation

This information is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. 

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

In Rwanda (as in the U.S.), traffic moves on the right-hand side of the road. However, there is an abundance of right-hand drive vehicles on the roads that create traffic and spatial awareness risks, and there is no formal prohibition against registering right-hand drive vehicles. You should 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 with little discretion. Wear seat belts and drive with care and patience at all times.

Some streets in Kigali have sidewalks or sufficient space for pedestrian traffic, while others do not, and pedestrians are forced to walk along the roadway. Street lighting is limited, and drivers often have difficulty seeing pedestrians, cyclists, and livestock. 

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. U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from driving outside of cities after dark (6:00 p.m.). Often, roadways have deteriorated surfaces, are not marked, and lack streetlights and/or shoulders. Service stations are available along main roads.

You may be stopped at police roadblocks in which your vehicle/luggage may be searched. 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.

Third-party insurance is required and will cover damages from 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). 

Due to possible language barriers and lack of roadside assistance, receiving help may be difficult. 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 +250 078-830-0345. 

When driving, lock car doors and do not leave any valuables visible in the vehicle. 

Public Transportation Conditions 

Public transportation can be dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance, and careless drivers. 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. Avoid taking non-metered or van taxis. Do not share a taxi with someone you do not know. 

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Kigali International Airport is safe, organized, and is undergoing renovations. Kigali is serviced by KLM, Brussels Air, and Turkish Airlines with direct flights to Europe and is also serviced by a wide variety of regional carriers, to include Rwandair (the national airline) and Kenya Airways. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Political Violence Rating: Low

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Grenade attacks aimed at the local populace have occurred periodically. 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. It is prudent to be vigilant and maintain situational awareness. 

Terrorism Rating: Medium

Civil Unrest 

Protests are rare, but if they do occur, they are generally peaceful, and any protest or rally requires a permit. 

Religious/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

The Mount Nyiragongo volcano is near the Rwandan border. The volcano is active and last erupted on January 17, 2002, killing 47 people, destroying 15 percent of Goma (DRC) 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.

Volcanic and seismic activity is the greatest threat to Rwanda’s critical infrastructure.

Kidnapping Threat

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. No statistics on political or criminal kidnappings have been reported for 2014. 

Police Response

Despite professionalization and capacity building initiatives, the Rwanda National Police (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 patrols in the city, but they are more focused on preventing terrorism than crime. The RNP leadership acknowledges these challenges and is striving to improve its operations and reputation. 

Community watch groups also patrol neighborhoods to prevent residential crime. 

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Corruption is not tolerated, so the incidents of corruption 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

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.

(Rwanda’s country code is +250): 

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

Police/Security Agencies 

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

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics

SAMU (Sanitaire Ambulance Medical Urgence) - 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
Email: info@kfh.rw
Website: www.kfh.rw 

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

Flying Doctor Service, Nairobi, Tel: +254-20-315-454 or +254-20-315-455
SAMU (Sanitaire Ambulance Medical Urgence) - on a cell phone dial 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, Tel: +250-788-308-382
Provides helicopter medical evacuation within Rwanda and to Uganda and Kenya.

Recommended Insurance Posture

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. Medical evacuation from rural parts of Rwanda to Kigali by helicopter is available. These are extremely costly services, which the patient must pay for themselves.

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

For additional information on vaccines and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/rwanda.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Situational Awareness Best Practices 

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 the evening. Maintain a low profile. Be alert and aware of your surroundings. Travel in groups, be aware of your surroundings, stay in illuminated areas, and do not carry or display expensive jewelry/accessories/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, I-pods, and other electronics out of sight. Valuables in hotels or residences should be locked or stored in a safe. If you are a victim of a robbery, it is advisable to give up your valuables and not resist.

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
Between the hours of 7 p.m. – 7 a.m., contact the Duty Officer at 078-830-0345
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 
Website: http://rwanda.usembassy.gov/

OSAC Country Council Information

An OSAC Country Council has been established in Kigali and meets periodically. To reach OSAC’s Africa team, please email OSACAF@state.gov.