Transparency Rwanda, a locally based anti corruption body has published a report calling for the amendment of the 23-year old traffic law indicating some articles in the law are either very harsh or too lenient to the road traffic users.
According to a report published in its periodic newsletter, Transparency Rwanda (TR) indicated the law is commendable as its intent is clearly protective but raises many concerns and TR feels there should be some amendments.
“Nowadays the law on traffic has attracted the attention of many, especially drivers who get fined or whose colleagues have suffered such penalties when they are arrested driving under the influence of alcohol,” reads the document.
It also singles out section three, article 10 of the law which stipulates that any person who drives a motor vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages in quantity and quality such that the amount of alcohol in blood is greater that 0.80g per litre of blood by the time of driving, will be subjected to either a prison sentence from seven days to six month or a fine not exceeding Rwf20, 000 or both.
According to Apollinaire Mupiganyi, the Executive Secretary of TR, “the article gives a broad discretion to the person who imposes the fine because the gap between seven days and six months is quite large.”
TR’s statement in the newsletter read that although this is not the only law where the legislature gives a the trial judge broad discretion in determining the sentence, given the nature of the offence, gravity or mitigating circumstances should be defined by the law in order to avoid the lead agent to impose the fine in an arbitrary manner.
“The gap could easily facilitate corruption because it is not easy to determine the precise legal basis on which a person was punished by an imprisonment of seven days and the other by an imprisonment of two months if the legal basis for those people is only the amount of alcohol higher that 0.80g per litre of blood when they were arrested,” reads the document.
TR also indicated that article 8 of the same law may be misleading.
It stipulates that violation of the regulations of the traffic police not defined by this law may be punished by a sentence of up to one month and a fine not exceeding Rwf2,000 or both.
“Basing on the concerns, TR believes that the amendment to certain provisions of this law would be necessary. The law should also distinguish the case of a repeated offence and the first offence and the sentencing done accordingly,” reads the document.
“It is not easy to govern all situations that may arise but the legislature should provide a few cases that could possibly lead the prosecutor or the judge to reduce or increase the penalty,” reads the TR document.
The same document quotes the former traffic police chief, John Bosco Kabera, as saying that the large number of recorded accidents are caused by drunken driving and that the crackdown comes as an opportune moment to save the lives of Rwandans who die because of drunk drivers.
Latest statistics indicate that since 2001, there have been over 33,000 road accidents that claimed about 3,000 lives and injured over 27,000.