4 March 2013

Rwanda: Noise Pollution - Kigali Moves to Sound Proof Churches

Rwanda — Kigali will soon be no city for loud praise and worshipping churches after the city authorities passed new rules against noise pollution.

The new regulations require bars, churches and events' organizers to guard against noise pollution in the city or suffer heavy fines.

Bruno Rangira, the public relations and communication officer for the city of Kigali told the press last week that the regulations come after noise pollution had become a nuisance in the city suburbs especially at night.And to ensure the new regulations are adhered to, hotlines for all the three districts in Kigali have been put in place for disturbed residents to call and report noise pollution in their neighborhoods.

The new regulations now mean, roadside music hawkers can no longer play loud music from their verandas to attract customers as the practice is in most cities. This would be illegal as per the new regulations and if reported could attract fines of up to RWF100, 000 francs more than $150 dollars.

There has always been a thing about churches and noise. In travelling buses, mobile pastors normally break without invitation and start preaching and singing on top of their voices.

Because of the fear among most people to be seen to oppose spiritual business, many travelers suffer silently even when they are clearly being inconvenienced by the noise; they tolerate it until the men and women of God leave.

Street side preachers are common in Kampala and Nairobi where they get a crowded corner and shout out the word of God albeit to an un-attentive audience.

All these would be categorized as illegal under the Kigali city new anti-noise regulations.

"It isn't enough to just establish these measures; they are supposed to be enforced. There are fines put in place for culprits and if we catch any, we will not hesitate to impose the fine because we have to learn not to make other people {in the city} uncomfortable," Rangira told the press.

There have not been any street protests from civil society or other so called human rights bodies and lobby groups and no threats have been issued either for future protests but there are individuals whose opinions are against the move.

"I have a bar and music is a major catalyst in my business, my customers want to boast loudly when they get high, they argue loudly and they want to sing along when a popular song plays, how can you shut them up?" wondered Thierry a bar manager in a Kigali City suburb.

Sound proofing is a practice common to night clubs but the practice in Kigali is every bar, fitted with several music speakers turns into a night club with people letting their hair down as they drink the night away.

There are very few night clubs in Kigali and those available are on the high end mostly located in hotels which are no go areas for an average city dweller.

On the other hand, bar business is one of the leading businesses in Kigali city with one or two borders at the turn of every corner. Each of these has music systems and on weekends turns into night clubs of sorts playing loud music to match the mood of the revealers.

With many located in residential areas, several homes are inconvenienced and the new city regulations could mean either silent nights in the near future of heavy fines."We shall just have to learn how to drink in silence," said Ivan Mwene a Kigali resident.

Chris Mampa, who owns a small bar with his brother, says the city regulations are not good for business.

"Cities are places of business not for people to sleep like in villages. If the regulations were meant against noise during day, its fine but at night, that's when our businesses make money," said the visibly unhappy Mampa.

Their bar, named Valu-Valu after Chameleon's hit is a popular joint for university students who want to dance and drink away most nights, with low music or none at all, this might send away many. The bar is also located near residential houses and these might choose to report now that new regulations are in place.

Sound proofing Valu-Valu will not be easy either as it's housed in an open structure where such acoustics may be hard to fit.

An earlier city ultimatum requiring the churches to curb noise pollution elapsed in December last year and it's not clear now how Kigali's churches will cope with the new regulations.

Those who talked to the media expressed their concerns with a fear that they might be raided during a service as the regulations don't stipulate any specific times.

Kigali is one of the most serene cities in the region and that's largely because of its stringent regulations in force. Even vehicles are prohibited from unnecessary hooting as it might inconvenience dwellers.

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