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Law of the land in Kigali [Journey to Rwanda]

November 10, 2011 | 11:04 am

Kigali

Sue Horton, Op-Ed and Sunday Opinion editor of The Times, is in Rwanda on a two-week Gatekeeper Editor fact-finding trip organized by the International Reporting Project. She is chronicling her trip on the Opinion L.A. blog.

Tuesday, Nov. 8: The inimitable Fred Mwasa, journalist with the Rwandan weekly newspaper the Chronicles met us this morning to show us around Kigali. It’s an immensely interesting city.

Observation 1:

Kigali is incredibly clean. We passed dozens of women in simple uniforms with brooms sweeping. And they’re everywhere, not just in the city center but in the poor areas, too. There is no trash to be seen.

Observation 2:

As in most African cities, there are a lot of motorcycle taxis. But in Rwanda, not only does the driver have to wear a helmet, but he (we didn’t see any women motorcycle taxi drivers, despite Rwanda’s genuine progress on gender issues) also has to carry a second helmet for his passenger.

Observation 3:

Traffic is as orderly as in any city I’ve been in, and much more so than in many -- Boston, say. People drive the speed limit (the fines are high if they don’t). They don’t pass unless it’s clear. They stop when they’re supposed to. There aren’t a ton of cars, but still ...

Observation 4:

All my prior observations may be related to the same thing: Laws that are very strictly enforced. Fines are huge, and there are traffic cops everywhere. People don’t dare disobey the law. We asked a Rwandan today about whether the country is as safe as its reputation implies.

The response was instant: Absolutely. People don’t rob or steal or even shoplift.

Why, we asked? “The police shoot to kill.”

President Kagame has often stated his admiration for Singapore and has said it is a model for him. He’s well on his way.

PREVIOUSLY:

Sunday, Nov. 6: Journey to Rwanda

Sunday, Nov. 6/Monday, Nov. 7: Two views of President Kagame

Monday night, Nov. 7: First impressions

-- Sue Horton

Photo: View of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, in 2004. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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