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Rwanda - Introduction

Rwanda is officially known as the Republic of Rwanda, found in East Central Africa. It borders Democratic Republic of Congo in the West, Uganda in the North, Tanzania in the East, and Burundi in the South. Kigali is the capital and the largest town. Rwanda, like most African states, did not escape the wave of colonization, and it gained independence from Belgium as an administered UN trusteeship on 1 July 1962.

The RNP, moved to the Ministry of Justice after the dissolution of the Ministry of Internal Security in October, is responsible for internal security. The RDF, under the Ministry of Defense, is in charge of providing external security, although the RDF also works on internal security and intelligence matters alongside the RNP. In December 2016 the cabinet approved the creation of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau under the Ministry of Justice. The decision effectively removes responsibility for investigations and prosecutions from the RNP and vests it with the newly created bureau.

Civilian authorities generally maintained control over the RNP and the RDF, and the government had mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The Inspectorate General of the RNP generally disciplined police for excessive use of force and prosecuted acts of corruption. Nevertheless, there were reports elements of the SSF at times acted independently of civilian control. For example, there were reports RDF J-2 (intelligence staff), NISS, and RNP intelligence personnel were responsible for disappearances, illegal detention, and torture in military and police detention centers, both declared and undeclared.

The RDF normally displayed a high level of military professionalism and discipline. In September 2016, RDF Major Aimable Rugomwa shot and killed a young boy in Kanombe on suspicion of theft. Authorities immediately arrested Rugomwa and charged him with murder, and a military tribunal refused him bail. The RDF High Command visited the deceased boy’s family and issued a communique denouncing the officer.

Police at times lacked sufficient basic resources--such as handcuffs, radios, and patrol cars--but observers credited the RNP with generally strong discipline and effectiveness. The RNP institutionalized community relations training that included appropriate use of force and human rights, although arbitrary arrests and beatings remained problems.

Visitors are often surprised at the incredibly positive outlook and warm hospitality of Rwandans. The genocide memorial is included on every city tour and is a must-see to understand Rwanda’s painful past, which has labeled the country for years; however, their impressive turnaround story has turned them in an inspiration among African countries. The Genocide Memorial in Gisozi acts as a humbling reminder to those present and honors those lost. This is a worthwhile visit for travelers who want to gain insight on their past and appreciate how far Rwanda has persevered. The year 2014 marks 20 years since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and the nation with its vibrant cultural heritage has moved to become a safe, world-class tourism destination known for its authentic, natural and cultural attributes.

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.

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.

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. Service stations are available along main roads.

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.

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Page last modified: 29-07-2017 18:15:54 ZULU