When you mention Rwanda to most people, they think of it as a highly dangerous place. Their first memory or thought that crosses their mind would be the tragedy of the 1994 genocide. You will, however, be amazed by how much the country has come together, grown to rebuild the country and swore ‘never again’ would they ever bring their beautiful country down. It is actually one of the safest countries in East Africa to travel in today. The people are extremely warm, friendly, hospitable and welcoming to everyone. You will rarely read anything in the local newspapers about a visitor to Rwanda having safety and security problems during their stay in Rwanda.
Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills, is definitely now a safe and stable country under firm leadership and development by an effective and determined visionary, President Paul Kagame. The Rwandan government fully realizes that it is its sacred duty to ensure the safety of visitors to Rwanda and its own citizens. Things such as petty theft, credit card fraud, overcharging all can be avoided. Security presence is found everywhere ranging from police, hotel security, and tourism police to ensure you are safe and your stay is undisturbed. Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, is known as one of Africa’s safest capitals and has turned into a model city for the rest of Africa with its impressive economic growth.
Rwanda is one of the safest places in Africa as it has been stable for most of its time since independence. Rwanda has a good political climate second to none especially after the genocide of 1994. The trauma that befell the people of Rwanda during this time where over 500,000 people were killed in just 100 days may be one factor why Rwanda is so stable because the citizens don’t want a repeat of that ordeal to happen again.
The political instability and civil war left permanent scars on the country although this must not deter you from travelling to Rwanda. The country has progressively rebuilt into a vibrant economical nation with an emphasis on community growth and preserving its natural resources. The Rwandan government and community have worked tirelessly to recover from the violence. A visit to the genocide museum in Kigali will give you a historical experience that highlights both the dark and light times of the country’s past.
The World Economic Forum ranked Rwanda as the 9th safest country in the world in 2017 ahead of Qatar, Luxembourg, Portugal, New Zealand, Austria, Estonia, Sweden, Slovenia, Spain, Netherlands, and Morocco. The rankings take into account the effects of common crime and violence as well as terrorism, and the extent to which police services can be relied upon to provide protection from crime.
There are strict laws prohibiting the promotion of ideas regarding genocide based on ethnic, regional, racial, religious, language, or other divisive characteristics. Public incitement of “genocide ideology” or “divisionism,” including genocide denial, discrimination, and sectarianism, is punishable by five to nine years in prison and fines of 100,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandan francs.
Political violence in Rwanda is rather low with peaceful protests that are typically planned ahead of time. However, avoid demonstrations and use vigilance while traveling, especially outside of cities and along border areas. Even peaceful events can become violent. Ensure you keep up with the local news and alerts.
Corruption is very low and is not tolerated in Rwanda. If you are a victim of harassment or attempted bribery, contact the Rwanda National Police dedicated hotline at 116 to report problems.
Human Rights Observers, Journalists, NGO workers may be subjected to more scrutiny by the Rwandan Authorities.
Photography of military sites, government buildings, airports, and public monuments is prohibited. Your cameras can and will be confiscated by the police or security services.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world, including in East Africa. The terrorist group Al-Shabab operates in the region but has not targeted western interests in Rwanda. There are no known international terrorist groups or domestic organized crime groups in Rwanda and the Government of Rwanda does not support any terrorist organizations.
The border regions are porous, making it easy to cross through Rwanda to another country. The Congo-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group continues to operate along Rwanda’s western border and has been linked to grenade attacks throughout Rwanda. Congolese armed forces and UN peacekeepers continue combat operations against rebel and militia groups in North and South Kivu provinces. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda operates in eastern DRC, near the border.
Volcanoes Park is considered to be especially safe because tourism and gorilla trekking bring in thousands of travelers each year. Violence and guerrilla activity is known to exist in the Congo’s Virunga National park. Armed groups operate on the DRC side of the park (Virunga). Exercise extreme caution because the border may not be clearly marked. However, there is no known threat of guerrillas in Volcanoes National Park. Ensure you obtain a permit from the Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks prior to entry.
Rwanda is the fifth largest contributor of peacekeepers worldwide.
The crime rate is relatively low though attempted home robberies, automobile break-ins, pick-pocketing, purse snatchings, and theft of vehicle accessories in Kigali do occur, most crimes committed in Rwanda are non-violent. Kigali remains the safest capital in Africa, though, as in any big city, take care at night and don’t take unnecessary risks since crimes of opportunity do occur. Serious crime or hostility aimed specifically at travelers is very rare, and there’s no more to worry about here than in most other countries.
Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda is done in Volcanoes National Park and is safe and secure with armed military guides accompanying every group for their safety.
According to the Gallup Global Law and Order report of 2016, Rwanda continues to feature as one of the safest countries in the world. The report has ranked Rwanda 11th globally and 2nd in Africa with over 87 per cent of citizens saying that they feel safe and confident in the security organs. The Gallup Law and Order Index measures people’s sense of personal security as well as their experiences with law enforcement. Some of the questions posed to respondents include: “In the city or area where you live, do you have confidence in the local police force? Do you feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where you live? Within the last 12 months, have you had money or property stolen from you or another household member? Within the past 12 months, have you been assaulted or mugged?”
Visitors to Rwanda are urged to take personal responsibility for their own security by being vigilant and taking common-sense precautions. As much as there are no off-limits areas in Rwanda, you must exercise caution in crowded markets, nightclubs, and any tourist areas.
Rwanda National Police have limited resources and still lacks specialized skills such as investigation, counter-terrorism, bomb disposal, forensics, and interviewing skills. The police are unable to respond to an emergency call in a timely manner.
Note that the Rwandan franc (RWF) is the official currency, though U.S. dollars may also be used with bureaus and banks taking only U.S. bills printed after 2006, of large denominations.
There are medical facilities available around Rwanda. King Faisal Hospital located in Kacyiru, Kigali, provides Emergency and Assessment (E&A) services, open 24 hours with a physician on the premises at all times. Depending on the circumstances, a commercial flight may be used for evacuation, or an air ambulance may be required. These are extremely costly services, which the patient must pay for themselves. Taking medical evacuation insurance and travel insurance is highly recommended prior to travel.
Rwandan roads are mountainous, circuitous and poorly lit. Motorcycle taxis are a common mode of transportation for locals because they are easy and inexpensive. For longer distances, buses are used by everyone. It is completely safe for women to travel on any mode of transportation, however, it is not safe to travel at night. It is better to pay more for a taxi to reach your destination safely instead of walking. Traffic accidents due to fog, mountainous roads, pedestrians in the road, and poor drivers are common. In addition, medical or police services may not be able to reach you in a timely manner should you be involved in an accident.
Thus, the safety and tranquillity in Rwanda at any time has been citizen-centred and driven. The government has put up initiatives such as Community Policing, to build capacity among community members, thus created a bond with the community to make them part solutions to security. Tourists need to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings and valuables at all times.
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