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In Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, low speed restrictions and related speeding fines have sparked outrage, with some motorists claiming that the city’s speed limits (40-60km/hr) are ridiculous.
The police have been at the forefront of enforcing traffic fine laws.
A fine of Rwf25,000 (about $24.6) is imposed for exceeding the speed limit, which rises to Rwf35,000 (roughly $34.4) if not paid within two days.
Some homeowners have reported that the traffic cameras are malfunctioning.
Since late 2019, cameras have been put up in strategic areas of roads to ensure safety of road users and help to identify and fine violators. More than 500 cameras have been installed since February 2020, according to reports from Rwanda’s National Police.
Some members of the public have also expressed concern that fining motorists for breaching speed limits as slow as 30-40km per hour is unfair, arguing that Kigali roads were expanded and improved after the speed limit signposts were established.
However, some drivers support speed limit enforcement to some extent as “exceeding 60km per hour in Kigali would likely cause accidents.”
“I personally never exceed 60km per hour in Kigali. It is especially risky in the mornings and evenings. The issue however comes when the speed limit is 40km per hour and below on a highway. It can be too slow,” said Mathew Mugabarigira, a taxi driver in Kigali.
Some residents have taken to the media to petition for revision of the speed limits, arguing that 30-40km per hour is too slow.
Responding to complaints, Rwanda National Police spokesperson John Bosco Kabera told the media that as long as drivers respect speed limits, they will not be fined.
“There are laws that place all speed limit signs. Everyone has to abide by the law. As long as you pay attention to speed limit marks, there will be no fines,” he said.
The traffic cameras have significantly helped to reduce road accidents, Mr Kabera added.
He said that as Kigali grows and the number of vehicles increases, there is a higher likelihood of heavier traffic and accidents. It is important that people abide by the law to avoid such inconveniences, Mr Kabera advised.
Rwanda had 221,000 registered vehicles in 2020 consisting of 52 percent motorcycles and 38 percent passenger vehicles. At least 30,000 of these vehicles are in Kigali. The number of vehicles is increasing rapidly, almost 12 percent per year, as indicated by Rwanda Revenue Authority data.
According to the latest data from the national police, at least 223 people lost their lives to road accidents in 2019. Road injuries are among the top seven causes of death in Rwanda, according to the World Bank.
A 2002 Presidential Order regulating general traffic police and road traffic states that vehicles in Rwanda are allowed to drive within speed limits of 25-80km per hour.
“A public or goods transport vehicle must not exceed the speed of sixty kilometres per hour (60 km/h),” it says.
Some taxi drivers say the hefty fines could force them out of their trade.
“I make Rwf25,000 in three days but on November 11, I was fined three times in one day for exceeding the speed limit of 40km per hour. That is Rwf75,000, excluding arrears. If I do not pay the fine, my motorcycle will be confiscated so I have decided to first get the money and come back when I am cleared,” said Mandera Dusabumuremyi, a taxi moto rider in Kigali.
Apart from using the cameras, the police have devised other strategies to ensure road safety in Rwanda, including having speed limit devices in public transport vehicles and awareness campaigns.