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Rwanda 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Rwanda; Africa > Rwanda > Kigali

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Rwanda does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit 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 webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

Pickpocketing in crowded public places is common, as is petty theft from cars, hotel rooms, and public places (churches). Thefts of portable/mobile computing devices are common.

Residential crime tends to be opportunistic, with unsecured items being stolen from yards or unsecured homes. There has been an 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 (carjacking, robbery, rape, home invasion) occur in Rwanda, they are rarely committed against foreigners. In 2016, 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.

Cybersecurity Issues

U.S. Embassy Kigali has received sporadic reports of credit card skimming and ATM fraud. Theft of credit card and identity information is rare, but given the level of sophistication of potential criminal elements, it is a reasonable possibility. Police have a growing cybercrime capability. 

Other Areas of Concern

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.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

You may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the U.S. Traffic moves on the right side of the road; however, there is an abundance of right-side drive vehicles 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.

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 features contribute to a hazardous driving environment. Many vehicles are not well-maintained, and headlights are either extremely dim or are 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, and pedestrians 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 (March-May), many unpaved side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Nighttime driving, particularly outside major cities, is hazardous and discouraged. Often, roadways have deteriorated surfaces, are not marked, and lack streetlights and/or shoulders.

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

Third-party insurance is required to operate a motor vehicle and will cover damages 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. Due to possible language barriers and lack of roadside assistance, receiving help may be difficult. Wear seat belts and drive with care and patience. 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; 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

Public transportation can be dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance, and careless and inexperienced drivers.

U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from driving outside of cities after dark (1800 hours) 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 be sure to agree on a fare before beginning your trip and ensure the vehicle has seat belts.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Kigali International Airport is safe, well organized, and is undergoing renovations to accommodate the growing passenger traffic.

Terrorism Threat

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

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, both of which border Rwanda. The security situation remains unstable with sporadic but severe outbreaks targeting civilians (rape, kidnapping, pillaging). 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 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. Tourists should exercise extreme caution and avoid crossing the border into DRC while exploring the Rwandan side of Volcanoes National 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 may be present.

  • 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 Bugeshi, which is located southwest of the Volcanoes National Park (aka Virunga 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 have occurred on a recurring basis over the last five years.

  • The two most recent grenade attacks occurred in early 2014 in Ruhengeri (Musanze).

  • 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.

    Civil Unrest 

    Protests are rare. If they do occur, they are generally peaceful, and any protest or rally requires a permit. There were no instances of civil unrest reported to the U.S. Embassy in 2016. Remain vigilant, exercise caution, and avoid crowds, demonstrations, or any other form of public gatherings.

    Post-specific Concerns

    Environmental Hazards

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

  • Areas with potential concerns include the Mount Nyiragongo volcano, near the Rwandan border. The volcano is active and last erupted on January 17, 2002, killing 47 people, destroying 15% of Goma (DRC), and leaving 120,000 people homeless.
  • In August 2015, a 5.8 earthquake centered in eastern DRC killed three people and injured many others. Tremors were reported in Kigali and the western portion of Rwanda. No damage to infrastructure was reported.


Critical Infrastructure

Power is unreliable at best. One can expect several blackouts per day in Kigali.

Water cuts also occur during the dry season.

Personal Identity Concerns

The law prohibits the propagation of ideas based on “ethnic, regional, racial, religious, language, or other divisive characteristics.”   

Drug-related Crimes

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

Police Response

Despite professionalization and capacity building initiatives, the RNP lacks specialized skills (investigation, counterterrorism, 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 acts of 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 a 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 at (+250) 596-400 ext 2631. 

Crime Victim Assistance 

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 Rwandan law enforcement are centralized under the Ministry of Justice. The Rwandan National Police (RNP) is the lead agency for local policing and traffic violations, and the Rwandan Investigative Bureau (RIB) is in charge of major investigations.

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Sanitaire Ambulance Medical Urgence (SAMU): 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

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.

Insurance Guidance

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 the patient 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

There is currently no active Country Council in Kigali. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Kigali or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.

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 078-838-3305

Fax: (+250) 252-580-325

Regional Security Officer

Tim Feeney, Regional Security Officer (250) 596-400 ext 2501 or 078-830-0542, KigaliRSO@state.gov.  

Matthew Terebessy, Assistant Regional Security Officer (250) 596-400 ext 2422 or 078-830-5137, KigaliRSO@state.gov.

American Citizen Services:   (+250) 596-400 ext 2631 

Embassy Guidance

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.

Additional Resources

Rwanda Country Information Sheet