As neither a nightclub person nor a churchgoer I’m probably one of the few people who have no ‘dog’ in the noise pollution ‘fight’. I honestly don’t care whether all the nightclubs in Rwanda are closed, along with all the places of worship; however, I will not hide my head in the sand and pretend that the events of the last couple of weeks haven’t got me thinking about the causes of all this brouhaha.
About a month ago, I went to the Kisementi area in the evening to meet up with friends of mine and to say that I was surprised at the noise levels would be an understatement. Where once (two or three years back perhaps) there was a neighborhood with one bar I found a neighborhood completely transformed. It seemed as if every house behind the Ecobank Remera-branch had been converted into a bar-hoppers paradise.
Out of each bar blared loud music as in-house DJs attempted to outdo each other in the volume stakes. Throw in the rowdy crowds and cars and all I can say was that the sound was positively Tower of Babel-ish. I was in and out of the area in five hours and all I could think about as I feel asleep in quiet Gishushu was how thankful I was I didn’t live anywhere near that area.
The police have not been making a lot of friends since deciding to enforce the noise pollution laws. In fact, one pastor went so far as to be quoted in a local online newspaper that the police was “provoking God” by arresting pastors and carting off their sound equipment (I won’t ask who the police are provoking by arresting bar owner).
I will not go into the argument of whether the arrests were lawful, especially in light of the Police’s inability to prove, in any scientific manner, whether the noise levels were above those allowed according to the law. Neither will I go into the argument about whether the closure of nightspots is or isn’t a great idea, especially when Kigali is trying to advertise itself as a 24-hour city. Not because they aren’t important, but rather because I believe that they are simply the symptoms of our malaise and not the disease itself.
My diagnosis? The fact that our city seems to be built without proper zoning laws in place. How else can it be possible for a nightclub to be found smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood?
I know that we have a Kigali Master Plan already but it has only major flaw. It doesn’t seem retroactive in nature. It doesn’t seem to have solutions for today’s solutions. In my view, people who want to open nightspots should know where to put up their establishments. Currently, they can honestly put them almost anywhere; the only thing stopping them would be the worry that their neighbors might complain and get them shut down.
Rather than act in a piecemeal kind of way and acting only when someone complained, wouldn’t it be better if there were designated areas where people could party in peace? Amsterdam has its Red Light District, Beijing has its Sanlitun area and New Orleans has Bourbon Street. Why can’t Kigali have its own major party districts?
Such an area would be a great addition to our cityscape. It would be secure because it would be easily patrolled by police, it would be a tourist attraction bringing in millions and the sleepyheads, such as myself, could live in peace. And if someone chose to live in that area, they’d do so knowing full well they were saying ‘urabeho’ to a good nights sleep.
About the noisy churches, well there isn’t much to be done (its not like there can be a designated ‘church district’. I simply think that there must be mutual respect between churches and their neighbors. What did Jesus say? I think it was “love thy neighbor as much as you love yourself”.