Rwanda: Thousands Stuck As Maritime Transport Between Gakenke-Muhanga Is Suspended

Local officials have temporarily suspended movement between Muhanga and Gakenke districts following an accident that took place on Monday, January 3, involving two boats on River Nyabarongo

The two boats were carrying passengers crossing from either banks of the river and at least one person drowned, forty people were rescued, and the search for more was still going on by press time.

On Tuesday, a team comprising officials from both districts, security, infrastructure ministry headed to the scene to find a solution for traders who cross the river every day, Eric Bizimana, the Vice Mayor in charge of economic development in Muhanga district told The New Times.

"We are now waiting for a motorized boat provided by Rwanda Defence Force to help transport passengers and traders who are stranded. This is because since yesterday movements were temporarily suspended to avoid further risks. We have realized that boats made of wood are very risky on this side," he said.

He said that the two districts are also carrying out a study on a sustainable solution to ensure safe transport on the river.

"Temporary solutions such as suspended bridges can also work for some time to ease trade and movement between the districts but we are working with the Ministry Infrastructure and the transport agency to come up with a study that could tell us a kind of bridge that can provide a sustainable solution in addition to motorboats," he said.

He explained that the bridge is needed to facilitate daily business activities carried out by residents who cross it.

"We have over 500 residents from Muhanga district who cross the river going for mining activities in Gakenke district besides thousands of others who go there to do other businesses," Bizimana said.

He said that thousands of residents from Gakenke district also cross the river to Muhanga for agricultural activities and other businesses.

"Gakenke residents supply and buy commodities from markets in Muhanga while those in Muhanga also cross the river to supply and buy goods from Ruli market in Gakenke district," he said.

The maritime transport using boats on this river was only being used following the destruction of a bridge by unknown people last week.

Information from Rwanda Investigation Bureau indicates that at least 13 people have been arrested for allegedly destroying the bridge for their own benefits.

The suspects first said that the bridge was destroyed by disasters but later, following an investigation, it was found that it was destroyed by locals operating maritime transport, after realizing that they were no longer getting clients for their boats.

Oswald Nsengimana, the executive secretary of Rongi sector of Muhanga district which borders the river confirmed that the exact number of people that boats were transporting is still being traced.

Bill to regulate maritime transport

Last year in July, the Chamber of Deputies adopted the relevance of the new draft law governing land and waterways transport in Rwanda.

The draft legislation which was tabled by the Minister of Infrastructure, seeks to address the legal gaps in the existing laws and regulating sub-sectors that were not catered for in the current law such as passenger and goods transport.

He disclosed that there was no law governing waterways transport known as maritime transport in the country.

Among other provisions, the bill provides for the training to ensure safety of persons and cargo.

The bill proposes, among other things, that organs involved in operations of waterways ensure sufficient and efficient staff, to guarantee safety of persons and cargo.

The authority in charge of safety in waterways assesses a trained person who wishes to obtain a certificate of competency and issues a certificate of competency to a successful candidate.

Also, it provides that a person who intends to carry out port operation must obtain a license from the regulator.

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