The Catholic Church has joined Rwanda National Police (RNP) in Gerayo Amahoro, a campaign aimed at educating Rwandans on safer road usage to prevent fatalities mainly caused by reckless human behaviour.
The partnership was launched on Sunday as the awareness campaign was conducted in all Catholic churches across the country during mass.
While addressing the congregation at Saint-Michel Cathedral in Kigali, Commissioner of Police (CP) John Bosco Kabera, the Commissioner for Public Relations and Media said that the partnership will further impact on lives of people on roads.
He said that Police and the church are responsible for the lives of people, ensuring peace and togetherness.
“We are happy that today we are with the Catholic Church to drive this agenda,” said Kabera, who is also the police spokesperson.
“Every year, we register over 5,000 road accidents which kill more than 500 people, over 2,000 survive with serious injuries and 4, 000 with minor injuries; more than 3,000 property are destroyed and over Rwf20 billion spent in compensation. 80 percent of these accidents are caused by human behaviors, meaning they are avoidable,” said Kabera.
He reminded the congregation that pedestrians should use the left side of the road facing oncoming traffic; use designated areas when crossing; look left, right and left before crossing and ensure that motorists have given the right of way.
Pedestrians were majority of the victims of road accidents last year with 223 fatalities, 184 motorcyclists and 130 cyclists.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) report, over 1.3 million people die in road accidents every year globally, with children aged between 5 and 14 accounting for the majority victims.
Kabera outlined using the phone when driving, reckless crossing of the road; drunk-driving or riding; speeding; and violating pedestrian cross-walks as some of the human behaviours causing fatal accidents, which should be avoided.
“We are experiencing a serious problem in overtaking where most motorists overtake on the right side of the road especially on the two-lane-same-direction road, because cars ahead are driving on the left, which is not acceptable. Keep right when driving.”
He also cautioned passengers who put their transporters especially motorcyclists under pressure to speed and sometimes don’t wear a helmet.
“Wear a helmet because it’s your life when an accident occurs; hold a minor by hand when on road; don’t drive when children are standing, playing in the car, with the head or hand out of the window.”
Father Innocent Consolateur, Saint-Michel Parish Priest said that peace and safety is a gift from God.
“When you have peace and love you wish the same and respect others,” said Father Consolateur.
“Respecting other people on road is protecting God’s souls and we are happy to partner with the Police to protect God’s people,”
In Eastern Province, the campaign on Sunday was launched during the morning service at Kibungo Cathedral, in Ngoma District, by the Regional Police Commander ACP Emmanuel Hatari, the Regional Police Commander.
Different congregants appreciated the move, saying that it was informative and much needed.
Syldio Karegeya, said, “The campaign was necessary because Rwandans needed to know how to behave on the road, and this cuts across motorists and pedestrians.”
Police Spokesperson in Eastern Province, CIP Hamdun Twizeyimana said that like other institutions, the Catholic Church is a “strong partner” of police in security, especially in road safety.
Father Gerald Maniraguha, who led the mass at Kibungo Cathedral pledged partnership in preventing vices that cause road accidents, starting with his congregation.
In Musanze District, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Reverien Rugwizangoga, the Regional Police Commander attended mass at Ruhengeri Cathedral where he called upon road users to abide with road traffic rules so as to curb accidents which continue to take their lives and those of others.
“Drivers should always avoid using their telephones while driving, avoid drunk and driving and over speeding. Drivers also ought to respect pedestrians’ rights,” added Rugwizangoga warned.
Emmanuel Ndagijimana, the parish priest said Gerayo Amahoro campaign was timely in the Catholic Church especially in his parish due to the location of the church which is in the city centre.
“Our parish is located in a city centre and we have a number of followers who use high traffic roads to or from church and therefore need to be aware of road traffic rules,” he said.
Ndagijimana assured that the church was ready to actively contribute to the Government efforts towards reducing road accidents that continue to take people’ lives across the country.
“Our bishops are committed to help spread messages on road traffic rules, fathers are too as well as the Catholics at large,” he noted
He added that the campaign will in the near future be brought to the church cells to ensure the message on road safety rules gets to a critical mass of Catholic faithful.
The Northern Province Governor who also attended mass at the Ruhengeri Cathedral said that the partnership between police and the Catholic Church will pay enormous dividend due to the number of followers the church commands countrywide.
“Christians normally believe in everything spoken in holy mass,” he said.
Gerayo Amahoro, which is now in its 35th week, is designed to reach out to all categories of road users in 52 week to influence safer road usage.