I have always wondered why Zebra crossing lines have been marked on Kigali roads. Opposite Kigali Institute of Education, students in corroboration with local administration took time off to paint the zebra crossing marks at a place many people cross the road to the institute, but since then, drivers don’t seem to notice the significance of the road markings. They just cruise past as if there is no sign to signal them to slow down to give the pedestrians the right of way.
When Sam Gisagara, a resident of London, was featured on RTV last Thursday, I thought his observations and advice to motorists and the traffic police would be endorsed by both the police and road users to improve the situation, but the police spokesman had other ideas.
Gisagara, was first shown on TV crossing the road at a zebra crossing, waiving cars to slow down as he crossed. I presume that is when the two young journalists noticed and interviewed him. The footage that preceded the interview showed how unmindful drivers are of pedestrians crossing roads.
What Gisagara advised was that the police should learn to station officers at such points and teach vehicle drivers and motor bike riders to observe the zebra crossing rules.
The police spokesman was asked to comment on the issue but instead of accepting the oversight, he went on to tell viewers about the police traffic education programme to school children and other road users. The journalists had offered him an opportunity to tell drivers what was expected of them. He overlooked Gisagara’s proposal to have the traffic police enforce the law.
When I met friends at a café opposite Ethiopian Airways (housed in Union Trade Centre) I sounded Gisagara’s idea to them and they were all unanimous on the laxity of the traffic police with regard to enforcing zebra crossing rules.
One of them, I will only refer to as Tony, pointed at the pavement painted white and black (adjacent to Ethiopian Airways ) and said “ those stripes mean one is free to park, but if you dare park there, you will be booked instantly, no argument”. Whether he is right or wrong, the point made is that traffic police is always right
Regarding the ever righteousness of the traffic police, Daniel told us of his encounter with the vice. Three weeks ago as he was trying to find parking next to Remera ONATROCOM office, to book a ticket for Nyagatare, a policeman waved him to move on towards the taxi park along the stone road. Although other vehicles were parked there, he obliged and drove on, then crossed the main road and parked on an adjacent road off the stone road.
The policeman followed him, and demanded his driving permit. Daniel asked the officer what the offense was, but the officer just took his documents and gave him a charge sheet.
What upset Daniel is that the policeman did not want to talk to him nor to reveal his name or police number. Worse still he did not know the nature of offense nor the amount of the fine he had to pay until he went to pay at Rwanda Revenue Authority.
A week earlier a certain NGO had presented findings of a research they carried out on the law and women’s rights in Rwanda, on Rwanda Television and radio.
The presenter, who happened to be the boss of the organization, said the research revealed that 95% of men in Rwanda did not approve of the law and its practice and so did a good number of women who felt that the laws negatively affect their relationships with their men Instead of dealing with the root causes of these attitudes, the boss pledged to work harder and teach people about the good side of the law.
The assumption is that by saying no, 95% did not understand the law and its implication. He seemed to say “we shall teach them to be believe what we know is right”. That is what I call self righteousness.
Is the law bad, or is the practice faulty? This should have been the logical question for the researcher. My gut reaction to the findings was that the problem is in the method of enforcement.
Two cases from Kamonyi told by a resident are revealing. One evening a woman returned home after a drinking spree with another man. The husband, who was obviously annoyed, demanded an explanation and a fight ensued between wife and husband.
The woman got hold of the husband’s private parts, and with the help of the other man beat him severely. The woman then called the police who took the man into custody. After a day in the cells, he was taken to Kigali Central University Hospital (CHUK), where he is up to now.
So one wonders; can it be true that every time a woman complains, the accused man is guilty? Haven’t we have heard of cases where the law has been used just to ‘fix’ men!
Another incident in the same area also indicates zeal with which the police and other law enforcement agencies respond to the fair sex distress call. Another gentleman after a day’s work in his garden came home and asked one of his children to give him water to bathe.
Having been instructed by the mother, the child declined the request and naturally the man tried to discipline the child but immediately the woman intervened with insults and the inevitable happened – a fight.
In the meantime, a brother to the woman was alerted and he came to his sister’s rescue armed with a panga but on arrival found that neighbours had stopped the fight.
The following day, the woman’s brother apologized to his brother-in-law saying he had been drunk and as a gesture of reconciliation offered to buy his in-law a beer at the nearest bar. As the men were sipping their beer, the woman walked past, went and called the police, who promptly hurled the poor man into custody. “He was released four days later after paying 15.000 frw” said the narrator.
I would recommend leaders not to take people’s opinions lightly. More often than not, their opinions and observations are correct and pro-society.
Let us promote horizontal communication between the leaders and the led rather than the vertical approach.