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Country Reports

Rwanda Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travel to Rwanda - population 12.1 million - located in the Great Lakes region, should pose no major issues, and the country is generally safe. Nevertheless, certain potential concerns should be noted prior to departure.

SECURITY

There is a significant security presence in the capital Kigali, particularly after nightfall, as well as in provincial cities. Never attempt to bribe a police officer or a member of the military. Do not hesitate to report any crimes or concerns to the police, who, unlike many of their counterparts in other African nations, are dependable and relatively competent. However, the police are still limited in their ability to respond to emergency calls and to conduct successful investigations, even in Kigali.

Grenade attacks aimed at locals have occurred on a sporadic but recurring basis, though seem to have reduced in frequency. The most recent grenade attack was in June 2017 in the Rusizi district, with one reported fatality. Attacks were also occurred in January 2014 in Ruhengeri (Musanze) and September 2013 in Kigali. The latter incident resulted in two fatalities and injured 18 others. The threat of future attacks should not be entirely dismissed, and travelers should remain vigilant.

The border regions with the DRC (north Gisenyi and south Cyangugu) remain unstable due to the presence of active armed groups on the Congolese side. The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) peacekeepers are engaged in combat operations against armed rebel and militia groups in the eastern DRC provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, bordering Rwanda. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), along with several other armed rebel groups, continues to operate in the eastern DRC near the border with Rwanda.

Though travel to the border area is typically conducted without issue, travelers should be aware of the potential for a serious deterioration in the security environment, with the possibility of military and rebel incursions, stray bullets, and artillery fire across the border. The border crossings into the DRC at both Gisenyi/Goma and Cyangugu/Bukavu are presently open between 06:00 and 18:00, but they may be closed without warning due to prevailing instability.

CRIME

Generally speaking, Rwanda is a low-risk destination. Kigali is considered by some Western governments to be the safest capital city on the African continent. Crime rates are low, however, despite the heavy security presence there have been reports that levels of street crime and petty theft are rising. In general, it is safe to both drive and walk in the city at night, although travelers are advised to remain vigilant at all times, especially in less populated areas of the capital. Instances of opportunistic carjackings and theft, notably in and around hotels, large markets (especially Kimoronko market), and bus stations have been reported. Cell phone and laptop thefts are common. As a precaution, it is advised to avoid wearing conspicuous valuable objects and to avoid carrying large sums of money. Attempts to break into cars during traffic jams have occurred; it is recommended to drive with windows closed and doors locked. In 2015, the United States Embassy in the capital city of Kigali reported cases of assaults on pedestrians at night in the Kimihurura neighborhood.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISK

In general, protests are rare and tend to be peaceful.

Paul Kagame was reelected as president for a third term on August 4, 2017, with 98 percent of the vote.

The next legislative elections will take place in 2018, followed by presidential elections in 2024.

TRANSPORTATION and INFRASTRUCTURE

The national road network is generally kept in good condition, especially roads from Kigali to all major towns. Despite the upkeep of the roads, driving after dark should be avoided as the roads are unlit and driving standards in the country are poor; serious collisions, often involving overtaking vehicles, are common. 

Travel using 4x4 vehicles is recommended on rural and dirt roads, especially during the rainy seasons (main wet season March-June; low wet season October-November), during which some roads become impassable.

Police checkpoints are common throughout the country; vehicles and luggage may be searched. Speed limits should be respected to avoid getting fined. The national speed limit is 70 to 90 km/h (19 to 25 mi).

All drivers must have valid vehicle insurance. If responsible for an accident, a prison sentence from three to six months may be imposed.

It is advisable to avoid travel using taxi-bikes ("motos") due to the relatively high number of serious accidents. Mini bus services are somewhat safer, though they are still prone to accidents. Orange-stripped taxis are generally safe.

Rwanda has made a concerted effort to open itself to foreign investment and tourism, and as a result the country's infrastructure is undergoing significant development. A number of quality hotels have opened in Kigali as well as other tourist areas (e.g. in and around Ruhengeri for visitors wishing to see gorillas in Virunga National Park, in Nyungwe Forest National Park, and in Akagera National Park). Infrastructure remains more limited in rural and isolated areas.

The power grid is in poor condition and blackouts occur frequently, including in the capital (though most high-end hotels will have a generator). Kigali also suffers from water shortages, especially during the dry season, when water access is often cut.

HEALTH

Subscription to an international medical insurance provider is strongly encouraged prior to any travel to Rwanda; Rwandan law requires travelers to have insurance coverage, and it is important to have coverage which covers medical care and emergency evacuations in case of a serious health problem.

As malaria is present in the country, including in Kigali, individuals should take adequate preventative measures against mosquito bites, and the use of preventative chemoprophylaxis is recommended, especially for travel to rural areas. Similar precautionary measures should be taken for dengue fever, which is also spread by mosquitoes during the day; it is recommended to wear long sleeved clothing and avoid stagnant bodies of water.

Tap water is not potable; enteric and diarrheal diseases, including typhoid and cholera, are common. Only drink bottled or decontaminated water, avoid eating raw or under-cooked foods, and wash your hands several times a day.

In order to avoid contracting water-borne parasitic diseases, including schistosomiasis, it is recommended to avoid bathing and washing clothes in stagnant water. Walking bare-foot on uncovered ground is advised against due to the risk of parasites, including "jiggers" (tungan penetrans).

It is important to take all the necessary measures to protect against HIV contraction, which affects a significant portion of the adult population.

It is advised to be alert for cases of measles and meningitis. Rwanda is located on the "African meningitis belt."  Numerous cases of meningitis are reported during the dry season, which lasts from May through October, as well as December through February. Effective vaccines are available against both diseases.

NATURAL RISKS

Storms and severe floods can impact the country during the rainy season, which are known to cause landslides, especially in rural areas.

Rwanda's infrastructure is vulnerable to seismic and volcanic activity. The most significant concern is Mount Nyiragongo volcano, and active volcano located within the DRC, near the Rwandan border. In January 2002, eruptions killed 47 people and destroying much of Goma (DRC). Violent eruptions may occur, and those in the region should monitor the situation.

Most recently, in August 2015, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake centered in Bukavu, eastern DRC, was felt as far as western provinces of Rwanda, though no casualties were reported.

LEGAL

It is forbidden to take pictures of government institutions. 

Military zones are off limits, and may not be well signed, including the military zone on Mount Kigali. Be vigilant when walking, especially in less populated areas, and heed the instructions of authorities.

The use of plastic bags was banned in Rwanda since 2008 and will be confiscated from passengers after landing in the country.

Rwandan law prohibits the propagation of ideas based on "ethnic, regional, racial, religious, language, or other divisive characteristics." This includes the terms "Hutu" and "Tutsi". It is highly advisable to avoid conversations regarding the genocide and the policies of the ruling party (Rwandan Patriotic Front - FPR, in power since 1994) with strangers.  It should be noted that the 1994 Tutsi genocide is commemorated annually on April 7. On this date, and during the corresponding week, all festivities other than those commemorating the genocide are prohibited. For example, hotel pools and dance clubs are closed. It is considered indecent to be "festive" during this week of mourning.

Climate

Rwanda has an equatorial climate but temperatures are tempered by high elevations. Kigali, the capital, is situated at 1500 m above sea level. There are two rainy seasons: from February to April and again from November to January. Heavy rains are common during these two periods. During the dry season, temperatures are pleasant.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +250

There are no emergency services in Rwanda.

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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