28 December 2011

Rwanda: KCC, There Is Nothing Wrong With Talking to People First

Photo: Stuart Orford/Flickr
The Mayor of Kigali says they have received overwhelming complaints from residents about deafening noise from churches that disrupted their tranquillity which city authorities said was intolerable (file photo)

Last Saturday I awoke to a horror headline in my favorite Rwandan daily, 'KCC limits party hours'.

According to the Kigali City Council's (KCC) Communications Director, a security meeting, on Thursday, resolved to 'ban music, church concerts, house parties and other social gatherings that will exceed midnight during Christmas time and New Year'.

The city authorities decided to give Kigali residents a quiet holiday season because, and I quote the official statement, 'due to the excitement during the festive season, people tend to indulge in drinking excessive alcohol which results into [sic] drunk driving, fights, noise pollution and other crimes".

I was extremely disappointed by the decision. I know that I'd complained about some of the noise pollution in residential areas a few weeks back, in this very column, even I knew that there were exceptions to the 'no loud music' rule; New Year's Eve certainly was one such exception.

However, KCC didn't see it quite like me. But, as a law abiding citizen I had to swallow my dismay and try to find a way to start partying even earlier, making sure that the music speakers were put away at the stroke of midnight.

While I was making those plans, I took a look at the next day's issue of this publication. Imagine my confusion when I saw this headline, 'No limit on party hours-Kigali Mayor'. Reading on, I found out that the Lord Mayor, Fidele Ndayisaba, had rescinded the Kigali Security Council's decree saying "people going for parties or concerts during the festive season have the right to go out for as long as they want". Explaining the decree, the Mayor said that KCC "only wanted people to party peacefully and in a responsible manner that will not deny others their rights".

Hearing the Mayor attempt to explain the reasoning behind the resolution, I was dismayed by the paternalistic nature of the decision. I don't believe that we are children and we shouldn't be treated thus. And I must ask, how in the world was KCC going to enforce this directive? Had they even thought about that? I mean, I bet that there will be festive gathering in almost each and every home- and with good reason. New Years Eve is a big deal.

The issue of the directive's enforcement isn't what I take issue with; what I'm most confused is why KCC felt the need to embarrass itself like it did. Flip-flopping on decisions isnt something that garners public respect, it's not a 'good look' on their part.

Honestly though, I would prefer to think that the Kigali Security Council took this decision without telling the rest of KCC. Because, if it was a collective decision, then I have to ask; why then did they change their minds within 24 hours?

KCC could simply have consulted as many as people as possible and found a way to let revelers have a fun, and secure holiday season. After all, there are many solutions that have been sought after consultations with the public. Anyhow, this fiasco should serve as a lesson.

Consultation isn't something to be sneered at; Rwanda is a democracy and making decisions without consulting the people, is patently undemocratic. I hope that this confusion isn't repeated.

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