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SafetyTravel Safety: Africa: Rwanda

Rwanda: Rwandese Republic
Capital: Kigali
Population: 7,398,074
Currency: Rwandan franc (RWF)
Languages: Kinyarwanda (official) universal Bantu vernacular, French (official), English (official), Kiswahili (Swahili) used in commercial centers
Religions: Roman Catholic 56.5%, Protestant 26%, Adventist 11.1%, Muslim 4.6%, indigenous beliefs 0.1%, none 1.7% (2001)
Borders: Burundi 290 km, Democratic Republic of the Congo 217 km, Tanzania 217 km, Uganda 169 km

Rwanda is a landlocked developing country in Central/East Africa. It is recovering from a civil war and genocide in which as many as one million people were killed. Economic activity and tourism are on the rise. Hotels and guesthouses are adequate in Kigali, the capital, and in major towns, but they are limited in remote areas.

American citizens living in or planning to visit Rwanda should be aware of possible threats to their safety from insurgent activity, particularly in northwest Rwanda in Mutura, Gisenyi Province near the Parc National des Volcans ( Virunga National Park ), where the mountain gorillas are viewed, and in southwest Rwanda in the area of the Nyungwe Forest.

In April 2004, the Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) were attacked by the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) in Mutura, Gisenyi Province near Virunga National Park. As a result, for a short time in April 2004, American Embassy personnel were restricted from traveling to those areas. Apart from organized gorilla tours through Rwanda �s Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN), American Embassy personnel and their dependents are restricted from hiking or camping in Virunga National Park. Americans are advised to follow the same measures. Also, Americans are reminded to remain vigilant and extremely cautious when traveling to Gisenyi and the northwestern border areas.

In July 1999, the Government of Rwanda reopened the Virunga National Park. The RDF provides security in the park against attacks by rebel groups operating from the DRC. The RDF also provides military escorts for visitors viewing the mountain gorillas. Visitors are not permitted to visit the park without permission from ORTPN. The ORTPN provides military escorts for nature walk programs in the park.

In the past few years, insurgent activity has been reported in southwestern Rwanda in the Nyungwe Forest. The U.S. Embassy strongly urges American citizens to avoid travel through the Nyungwe Forest on the Butare-Cyangugu Road during the hours of twilight and darkness.The Embassy advises against visiting the Nyungwe Forest until insurgent activity has ended.

Periodically, travel by U.S. Mission personnel may be restricted based on changing security conditions. Visitors to Rwanda are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy Regional Security Office or Consular Section for the latest security information, including developments in northwest and southwest Rwanda.

One of the many Hutu extremist rebel factions in the Great Lakes region has committed, and continues to threaten, violence against American citizens and interests. This faction was responsible for the March 1999 kidnapping and murder of several Western tourists, including U.S. citizens, in neighboring Uganda. Hutu rebel factions are known to operate in northeastern DRC and surrounding areas, including sections of Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi.

Pick-pocketing in crowded public places is common, as is petty theft from cars and hotel rooms. Although violent crimes such as carjackings, robberies, and home invasions occur in Kigali, they are rarely committed against foreigners. Pick-pocketing and purse snatchings in crowded public places are common, as is petty theft from cars and hotel rooms. Although violent crimes such as carjackings, robberies, and home invasions occur in Kigali, if cooperative, foreigners are rarely physically injured. Americans are advised to remain alert and exercise caution.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Rwandan law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Rwanda are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the U.S., for U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens to exploit children sexually via pornography, the Internet or other means or to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a person under the age of 18 in a foreign country, regardless of whether there was intent.

Medical and dental facilities are limited, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable. Travelers generally should bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. In Kigali, Americans can go to King Faycal Hospital, a private hospital that offers limited services. A list of medical and dental providers is also available at the U.S. Embassy. A missionary hospital run by Americans is located in Kibagora, in the southwest of Rwanda, and it has some surgical facilities.

In 2002, Rwanda experienced the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, which lies across the northwest border in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tremors were felt throughout Rwanda, including in the capital, Kigali. Seismic activity is unpredictable and infrequent, but American citizens should be aware of the possibility of earthquakes. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Rwanda is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor 
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair 
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor 
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Excessive speed, careless driving, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are hazards on Rwanda�s roads. Drivers frequently have unexpected encounters with cyclists, pedestrians and livestock. Nighttime driving is particularly hazardous and is discouraged. Often, roadways are not marked and lack streetlights and shoulders. While the main roads in Rwanda are in relatively good condition, during the rainy season many side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Travelers may be stopped at police roadblocks throughout the country, where their vehicles and luggage may be searched. Service stations are available along main roads. Public transportation can be dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance and careless drivers.

In Rwanda, one drives on the right-hand side. Cars within traffic circles have the right of way. Until 2004, cars entering traffic circles had the right-of-way. Some drivers might forget this change. Therefore, drivers should exercise caution at traffic circles. Third-party insurance is required and will cover any damages if you are involved in an accident resulting in injuries and you are found not to have been at fault. If you are found to have caused the accident, your driver�s license can be confiscated for three months. If you cause an accident that results in a death, you can be sentenced to three to six months� imprisonment. Drunk drivers are jailed for 24 hours and fined FRw 20,000(approximately $40). In the city of Kigali, you can call the following numbers for police assistance in the event of an accident: Kigali Center, 08311112; Nyamirambo, 08311113; Kacyiru, 08311114; Kicukiro, 08311115; Remera, 08311116. Ambulance assistance is non-existent. Please wear your seat belt and drive with care and patience at all times.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at For specific information concerning Rwanda driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please contact the Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks, B.P. 905, Kigali, Rwanda, telephone 250-76514, fax 250-76512.

At this time, one international carrier operates direct flights to Brussels, Belgium twice a week, and travelers may also fly through regional airports, including Kampala and Nairobi, to Europe and the United States. As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Rwanda by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Rwandan Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA�s Internet web site at

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

May 25, 2004

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