Police in Rwanda has introduced new and harsh penalties for traffic offenders. The decision was triggered by a series of deadly accidents reported in the last 30 days.
More than 50 people have died in 30 days causing public outcry and anger at police for failure to enforce traffic laws. On average, Police says, 1.7 people died every day. It also said it had recorded 1,324 road accidents between January and June 2014.
On Monday morning, Police announced drivers caught overspending will be fined Frw450, 000 (US $652). The previous fine was Frw50, 000. Drivers without licenses will face the same fine. Those driving without a seatbelt, with no insurance, with mechanical faults and using a cellphone at the same time will be fine Frw90, 000 from Frw10, 000.
“These measures start applying with immediate effect,” James Musoni, said Minister of Infrastructure. “Government cannot keep a deaf ear as people keep dying in the eyes of reckless drivers.”
Twahirwa Dodo, the head of the Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperative (RFTC), a public transport company, acknowledged drivers are reckless. He said most accidents occur due to overspending and speaking on phone while driving.
The Police Commissioner for Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Assistant Commissioner of Police Theos Badege said that these penalties will deter offenders from breaking the laws. He said the Police is going to install speed governors in all vehicles that offer public transport.
Meanwhile, the public has expressed fear the decision opens doors for corruption. A heated debate, dismissing the policy, has ensued on social media. “Too much money. I am only afraid some police personnel might use this to their advantage,” said Friday James, on a Facebook debate. “Should I say the bribe is also going to multiply by 10?”
Chris Cikini wondered on a tweeter debate, ”In my view they are exaggerated…one pays Frw450, 000 when driving a car of Frw1.5m?”. “Too much, they forget educative/preventive part of police…how many Rwandans earn all this amount?” says Kamikazi Fiona, a model.
However, others say Police is facing consequences of government failure to regulate the transport sector. Many say public bus drivers are overworked, thus with fatigue, they exposed to accidents.
Humphrey Mutegi is a Psychologist and Associate Dean of Students at Mount Kenya University in Kigali. He wonders how a driver working excessive hours would not get involved in accidents.
“A driver who travels over 1000 miles a day without a rest is already mentally distressed.” “There is no way he can skip accidents after working beyond normal hours. Drivers need to be given ample time to rest,” he added.
According to Mutegi, government should revise public transport sector. “I am not pleased with the way public transport buses are overloaded around Kigali,” he said.
Fortunately, participants at the meeting agreed on an immediate decision to establish a maximum number of working hours to give drivers time to rest and vehicles’ engines to cool off.
The Minister of Internal Security, Musa Fazil Harerimana said CCTV cameras would also be installed to track over speeding.
By Dan Ngabonziza