There are three things you should know about the Rwandan police. For one, they don’t have their own police cars which means that if you want them to come investigate something you need to pay the moto fare. At times, you’ll see a bunch of police driving around in those trucks with couches in the back, but these are strictly to transport them to the office, not to take them around town.
Second, there are no such things as proper police reports: if you want to file a report you literally write down what happened on a blank piece of paper and have it stamped by the police officer. This can make it difficult for insurance claims, as they usually require an official police report to reimburse your losses.
Thirdly (and most importantly), the Rwandan police is beyond dedicated to hunt down criminals and stolen goods. And I’m not just saying that to improve my chances of gaining citizenship. I totally heart the police.
Whatever view you might have of police in developing countries should not taint your opinion on the Rwandan police force. Corruption is, for the most part, kept out of investigations (though I did have a police officer hint that I should go on a date with him in gratitude for tracking down my stolen Mac…), and you can call 3511 to report abuses by a police officer, including bribery. Also, the police are trusted and appreciated in Rwanda so, unlike what you see in many other African countries, citizens here are more than happy to aid the police in their work.
Rwandans in general take immense pride in their peaceful and just society, and are fascinatingly eager to respect rules, and to stop those who don’t. You are therefore likely to experience civilians informing you if you are breaking a rule (such as walking on the grass, crossing the street at a red light, or parking where you shouldn’t.) In addition, people will gladly seek down a police officer if they think something criminal might be going on. In fact, this is how my speakers were found (yes, I’ve had a lot of shit stolen, okay? When I’m not breaking electronic items, they tend to just disappear on me…) Anyway, back when they were stolen, I didn’t even bother reporting it, assuming the police wouldn’t be able to do much anyway. A week later, some old man had gone to the police and told them he had overheard a fight between two young boys concerning some speakers. The old man had a feeling the speakers had been stolen, and so the police immediately found the boys, took the speakers, and contacted me. I was of course incredibly confused, being unaware that the police even knew about this case. But hey! Being the center of gossip (meaning being a muzungu living in a local Rwandan neighborhood) does have its benefits at times.
Thus, in conclusion, in Rwanda, the police are your friend. If your house or car gets broken into, contact the police immediately. If someone mugs you (though the likelihood of that is rather low), contact the police. If you are assaulted or hit by a car or slapped with a glove, contact the police. If you want to file a report, visit one of the police offices to write down your statement. The emergency number to call is 999, though Kigali is swarming with them so you’ll probably be better off just yelling: POLICE!
Here are some phone numbers we stole from the US Embassy website:
- Emergency: 112 / 999
- Traffic Accident: 113
- Police Abuse: 3511
- Kigali Brigade: 0788311121
- Gikondo Brigade: 0788311140
- Kicukiro Brigade: 0788311117
- Muhima Brigade: 0788311122
- Nyamirambo Brigade: 0788311123
- Traffic Police: 0788311115 / 0788311114
- Fire Brigade: 0788311120