Parliament passes new law to regulate civil aviation authority


State Minister for Transport, Dr Alexis Nzahabwanimana

LEGISLATORS in the Lower House have unanimously passed the new law governing Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA), which will take away direct provision of aviation services from the agency and leave it with the mandate of being a regulator for the services.

Currently, RCAA operates as a regulator, manager of national airports and provider of air navigation services.

The combination of these activities means that, besides regulating the airport operations and Air Navigation Services (ANS), RCAA is also involved in commercial activities within and around airports in the country.

That has to change within the next 12 months after publication of the new law in the Official Gazette. The new law enacted by the MPs yesterday stipulates a deadline by which RCAA will have to transfer its business assets and liabilities to other companies and remain with the sole role of a regulator.

“It’s like RCAA had two hats and it has ceded one,” said MP Adolphe Bazatoha, the chairperson of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Economy and Trade, which reviewed the law.

The Government introduced the changes in order to have a sound legal framework for the aviation industry and allow Rwanda to be a regional hub for the industry, officials said.

Emphasising the need to separate the regulator from direct provision of services to clients, the State Minister for Transport, Dr Alexis Nzahabwanimana, told the committee last month that RCAA is currently in charge of giving people services and suing itself in case it harms their interests.

With the new law enacted, the agency will now be there to ensure that those who provide aviation services do it well in line with the right regulations to protect clients.

“Sometimes RCAA was both plaintiff and defendant in cases of accidents or any other disasters in the aviation area,” Nzahabwanimana said.

In line with making RCAA a regulator instead of a service provider, the Government, in October 2015, established a new company to manage the aviation industry activities as a way to simplify the industry operations and make it more vibrant and competitive.

The company, Aviation, Travel and Logistics Ltd (ATL Ltd), is a holding corporation with its subsidiary companies; national carrier RwandAir, Airports Company Rwanda, Rwanda Tours and Events, Links Logistics Rwanda, and Akagera Aviation.

It will provide aviation services, including travel, logistics, ground freight and cargo handling, as well as charter services.

“One of the main reasons why this law was urgent is because ATL has already started operations and the RCAA needs to free up certain assets to allow their access and use,” Nzahabwanimana told MPs in the plenary on Wednesday.

Officials say the new law governing RCAA will come as a boost to the country’s aviation legal framework in line with the government’s plan to turn Rwanda into a regional aviation hub for tourism, cargo and logistics-related activities.

MP Alfred Rwasa in the plenary on Wednesday.
MP Marie Josée Kankera