Life of arbitrary arrests, detention and assault for Rwandan vendors

Wednesday July 12 2017

Numerous districts have enacted laws against

Numerous districts have enacted laws against street vendors. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NATION 

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Rwanda's government is on the spotlight again due to the increasing arbitrary detention of street vendors.

According to a report by the Rwandan Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ARDHO), hawkers are subjected to assault and discrimination.

“The street vendors are deprived of their rights to liberty... They are arrested without a warrant, taken into custody beyond the legal timeframe and before a court decision is made,” the report read.

The report showed that 71.4 per cent of street vendors were frequently subjected to physical assault by the government forces, 76.5 per cent had their goods confiscated while 64.3 per cent were arrested and detained without proper legal procedures.

It estimates that there are over 40,000 street vendors countrywide, 68.2 per cent of them being female and the majority aged between 14 to 29.

According to the president of the organisation, Jean Ngendahayo Kabuye, numerous districts have enacted laws against street vendors thus the need for revision of legal framework that governs street vending.

“We have precise legal procedures for arrest and detention that enforcers should follow,” he said.

“We don’t have laws criminalising street vending, given that law enforcers confiscate the hawkers’ merchandise without making reports,,” he added.

Mid last year, the Kigali City Authority published guidelines, setting provisions for fines for both the vendors and buyers in a move aimed at getting street vendors off the streets.

The city has since deployed security agents to check on sale and purchase of goods in areas not designated as markets.

The report recommended that the government prioritises its assistance to make it easier for hawkers to access financing.

Angelique Mukakimenyi, a street vendor, explained their ordeal, even as she recognised efforts to build marketplaces.

As the report indicated the increase in number of street vendors, Patricia Muhongerwa, Vice Mayor of the City of Kigali in charge of social affairs said plans to help them are derailed by pessimism. 

“We are doing our utmost to get them off the streets and into the markets by accommodating their stands.

However, initiatives have been hampered due to the hawkers’ mindsets as they think their money cannot sustain them at the marketplaces,” said Mrs Muhongerwa.  

According to the city of Kigali, Rwf30 million ($35,745) in subsidies had been provided to support street vendors grouped in 12 co-operatives in 2016.