My guess is that when you tell the average person you’re moving to or already living in Rwanda, there’s a moment of hesitation and confusion on their part as they contemplate this piece of information. In many people’s eyes, Africa as a whole is a scary, dangerous and chaotic place and mentioning Rwanda doesn’t do much to calm their nerves.
But ‘many people’ have got it wrong. Africa is an impossible place to make generalizations about. For the love of God… it’s a huge continent and each country is as diverse, or more so, than those in Europe, Asia or South America. While one country might actually be a pretty dangerous place, the country next door could be safer than your home country.
Fortunately, Rwanda is arguably the safest country in Africa. In fact, in 2022, Rwanda was listed as the sixth-safest country in the world for solo travelers. But that doesn’t mean bad stuff doesn’t happen here as well and, while I don’t want to freak people out, it’s a good idea to be aware of potential risks here.
If you are unlucky to find yourself a victim of crime, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) has established a reputation for responding to crime and crime complaints with great efficiency and speed. They are quite responsive on twitter, although you can also approach any of their offices in town. From experience, however, all stolen tech gadgets are reported at their branch in town, opposite La Galette.
When you’re out, especially in clubs or bars, keep an eye on your belongings, especially expensive items like phones, lest we meet, and you regard me with tales pocket pickers. Make sure your bag has a zipped or buttoned area for valuables, and don’t put money or valuable items in your back pocket. Crimes of opportunity can happen if you’re not careful with your things.
You’re probably not going to be mugged. Violent crime isn’t really a problem here as it is in places like Nairobi where everyone has some scary story to tell. But you still hear the occasional tale of a mugging which usually consists of the person being roughed up and having their bag taken but not much more.
Obviously walking alone at night isn’t the brightest idea, but if you must, stick to well-lit areas and places with military patrols, like the Kiyovu area. Many neighborhoods also have “abanyerondo,” who are neighborhood guards that patrol throughout the night. There are usually six or seven of them, in uniform, and carrying long canes.
As a foreigner living in Rwanda, you will likely live in a house or apartment complex with a high concrete gate around it. Most apartment complex hire security companies, and you can get a live in guard for your house. Ensure that you choose your house staff based on recommendations from people you know well. Your guard and any other house staff you have will need to have keys to your property, so you’ll want them to be vouched for, for sure.
Cleaning companies may also be hired occasionally but be cautious about leaving valuables unattended. An old acquaintance told me of losing a few bucks when the house was being cleaned.
True, taking moto taxis around Kigali will get you anywhere, fast, and at a cheap price. But in my opinion, they’re also the most dangerous form of transportation in Rwanda. Stories of death or injuries from moto accidents are not uncommon. So, if you’re more on the timid side, maybe stick to buses, taxis, your feet or buy a car. But if you’re irresponsible and reckless like me… motos are a hell of a lot of fun!