This Saturday I awoke to a horror headline in my favorite Rwandan daily, ‘KCC limits party hours’. According to the Kigali City Council’s (KCC) communication guru, Bruno Rangira, 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”. The Police Spokesperson said that the loud music and such disturbed peoples “peace”.
I was extremely disappointed in 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 Reading on, I found out that the Lord Mayor, Fidele Ndayisaba, had rescinded the Kigali Security Council’s decree saying “people going for parties or concerts during the festive season have the right to go out for as long as they want”.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 isnt what I take with 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’. It makes it seem like KCC is a body full of rogue departments that operate outside the KCC rules and procedures. 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 decisions, then I have to ask, why then did they change their minds within 24 hours? I think that the answer is obvious, someone with a lot of clout made a few phone calls and gave KCC officials a piece of their mind.
But I have to ask, why did it have to go so far? KCC could have simply consulted as many as people and found a way for people to have a fun, and secure holiday season. This fiasco should be a lesson to KCC and other government bodies. Consultation isnt something to be sneered at; Rwanda is a democracy and making decisions without any consultation with us, the people, is patently undemocratic. I hope that this confusion isnt repeated.