Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame on Friday announced that he had talked to the police about revising the low speed limits that caused an uproar in the country this week.
“The speed should not be so high that it leads to accidents, nor should it be so low that people never get where they are going. I have spoken to National Police officials,” President Kagame said during a ceremony rewarding top taxpayers across the country on the 19th Taxpayers Appreciation Day.
President Kagame’s comment comes after some back-and-forth between members of the public, journalists, and the traffic police over the low speed limits, even on highways, and the fines for overspeeding that residents say are hefty.
Earlier in the week, residents argued that the speed limits are too low and fines are unreasonable while the police responded that traffic laws should be obeyed.
Rwanda installed traffic cameras in strategic sections of roads to monitor road users and enhance road safety.
The traffic enforcement cameras are set to fine every vehicle that breaches speed limits of as low as 30-40km per hour. The maximum speed limit in Rwanda is 80km per hour. Contravention against a respective speed limit results in a fine of Rwf25,000 (approximately $24) which increases to Rwf35,000 ($34) if not paid within two days.
“People have been complaining about excessive traffic penalties for speed limits and paying fines for going beyond 40km per hour. That is the same speed as those of us who are used to walking,” Kagame added.
While the police have emphasized that traffic speed limits are indicated by laws, some residents argue that Kigali roads have been expanded and improved after the speed limit signposts were established in 2002.
A 2002 Presidential Order regulating general traffic police and road traffic stipulates 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),” the order reads.
With the current context, the traffic police have assured that traffic laws are in the process of being amended and updated.
According to Gerard Mpayimana, Commissioner for Traffic and Road Safety, the enforcement cameras have significantly helped to reduce road accidents.
In the first 10 months of 2019, before the enforcement cameras, 739 people died in road accidents. The number decreased to 687 in 2020 and 548 in the same period in 2021.
“Although there was a pandemic, the number of road accidents and deaths have decreased ever since we introduced the speed limit cameras,” Mpayimana said.
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.