Enough is enough: the crackdown on noise is getting ridiculous and must be challenged

I’ve tried to be nice. I really have. I tried to put myself in their shoes and I’ve played Devil’s Advocate but to no avail. I have to say this; whoever instituted these new noise regulations needs help. They really do.

Last Wednesday night I went to the Spoken Word Rwanda a monthly event that gives a platform for the more artistic amongst us to explore their talents that was talking place at Jazz Lounge in Kimihurura (just behind Papyrus), I’m not a huge fan, I guess I’m not that artsy, but a friend persuaded me that it would be fun. And honestly, I didn’t fancy it that much but that’s just my opinion. But I digress.

Does this seems loud to you? (All photos courtesy of Teta Mpyisi-hope you dont mind that I've used them :)

Does this seems loud to you? (All photos courtesy of Teta Mpyisi: Hope you dont mind that I’ve used them 🙂

At around 9:30, right in the middle of a recital, a bunch of policemen, carrying the latest machine guns (you know, the ones that the Presidential Guard sport) arrived outside the venue and told the owners of the lounge to pack it up, the event was too noisy. Mind you, this wasn’t a hip-hop concert or a loud gathering; I mean, how could it be? It was a poetry slam for chrissake!

Trying to reason with their commander, I joined the lounge’s patron and asked “why exactly are you trying to shut it down”? “Because it is noisy”, he answered. “According to whom”, I challenged him. “According to the person who called us and made a complaint”, he said. “Who is the complainant and where does he/she live”? What law exactly are they following to shut this event down”, I asked.

I guess I was asking too many questions because they refused to answer any more questions.

Now, I’m pretty sure that they would have indeed shut the whole thing down if there weren’t two men in the crowd who were able to reason with them. I will not divulge their names, but I will say that they were both former military officers. I guess its true what they say, ‘BIG IS BIG’. But I find it disgusting that they had to throw their weight around (and make phone calls) for sanity to prevail.

I mean, what could possibly posses the cops to shut down a POETRY session because it was too loud? Was it the clapping after each performance? Was it the gentle guitar playing? I actually kind of felt bad for the cops who came, all they were doing was following orders. Orders from on high. And so those ‘higher ups’ are going to be the target of my vitriol.

Firstly, whoever called the cops (and I bet it is some ‘Nyakubahwa’ with an overly inflated sense of their own power- not anyone can call the cops and they send the elite ones, along with an afande in tow) is a sad, sad human being. But whoever called the cops is only doing it because they can. Someone decided to institute this harebrained nonsense. Guess who THAT IS?

The Lord Mayor. Fidele Ndayisaba .A man whose common sense I dispute. A man who tried to close Papyrus for shits and giggles. A man who will fine drivers for honking their car horns. A man who will do anything and everything in his power to tackle the scourge of noise pollution. Never mind that he isn’t tackling the scourge of Kigali’s lack of a sewage system. Or proper public transport. Or lack of affordable housing. Or rising petty crime. Or lack of proper neighborhood streets and streetlights. Nope, it is the NOISE that is Kigali’s problem.

I tried. I’ve really tried to be as understanding as possible to those among us who can’t sleep because of loud music but I feel like there is a collective piss-taking on the part of some people who have no sense of fun. Or common sense.

What’s the way forward? First of all, we need to get a new mayor. Sometimes that’s the only solution. Remember last year’s ban on Halloween? That was the brainchild of former culture minister, Protais Mitali. With Josesph Habineza we won’t have to go through that again, fingers crossed.

And barring that, the police have to start using their common sense more.10676171_10154729682505324_7464265598774861147_n Just because some person complains doesn’t mean that they have a case. Yesterday was a case in point. We all know that they will not buy instruments to measure sound levels (they don’t even have breathalyzers anymore) so I won’t even go down that route.

You know what, I think this is all our fault. The reason this is all nonsense is possible is because outraged people don’t organize. All they do is agonize. Bitching and moaning on Facebook and Twitter won’t change a thing. So, here is contribution.

If this blog post is shared more than 200 times on Twitter and 100 times of Facebook, I will start a petition under the name ‘Rwandan Youth for Change’ to voice our concerns about the noise pollution law and how its being used unlawfully and nonsensically. I will be looking for your signatures. Lets do this!!!      

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20 thoughts on “Enough is enough: the crackdown on noise is getting ridiculous and must be challenged

  1. The main problem I have is the lack of scientific approach, no noise pollution level measured in decibels, no decibel readers, no warning, no letter, just swooping down on people. This is like when cops used to dish out speeding tickets saying your car sounded like it was speeding. I really worry about the lack of procedure in the Police, just reacting to please their bosses not doing the public good. The IGP is under pressure and is over-reacting to problems too late, like with the traffic problems, now noise, round up the usual suspects – type thing

    Rama Isibo

  2. Eric says:

    I completely disagree with you. Maybe you felt insulted that the police had to shutdown an event you were part of, you the respected and known writer. But at the end of the day, it is simple… You want to enjoy some ‘spoken word’ then please do but as a neighbor if I don’t want to hear even a word then it is my right… Yours stops at Jazz lounger or wherever this was. It is not a matter of some Big guys calling the cops, it is a matter of you enjoying your rights without impending on others…. I lived in western countries for long and this has been going on for a while longer than here and people understand why…. The police there don’t have any sound measuring devices either, all they need to do is show up and realize that what the neighbor said was right, that the noises goes over to the neighbor…. Your vilification of the Rwanda police and the Mayor sound very personal to me… You even sound like you have an inferiority complex with your rant about the “Big people” and all, you don’t even know who called the police but assume it is a “Big” person, maybe it was a simple hard working muturage trying to get some sleep and couldn’t because some guy feels that the muturage has to listen to his/her narrative about “sunrise, smell, etc..” and getting loud acclamation for it. But no, you feel like the muturage should just tough it up and take it because somehow we are in Africa or Rwanda and things should be different. Get real, law and order is as important as good sewage and public transport system. In a modern society, you don’t get to choose what is convenient to you. Get real please!!

    • A. Thys says:

      Actually in Western countries the police do have decibel meters. They are used in the case of complaints regarding parties, public events, discotheques, … . And Western countries also have noise pollution issues and lots of them. From neighbours calling on each other for BBQ festivities that are too loud or rowdy kids playing in the street or a dog that barks too much. People are pretty much intolerant everywhere and have issues living together all around the world.

  3. From abroad says:

    I like the articles you write in TNT. They are always interesting and I think we need more journalists like you. However, I don’t agree on some of the points you raise about noise pollution. Here in Europe, police doesn’t need scientific noise pollution instruments to fine you, all what police officers do when a neighbor complains is assessing by using their own ears, not any single instrument. Police is sovereign to assess wether the noise level is acceptable or not for the neighborhood. Where I could tend to agree with you on this issue is the fact that police may in some cases just execute orders from “Banyakubahwa” without conducting independent assessments. So, for me that is the only issue I could see but not the fact that acceptable level of noise should be put in a law and proven scientifically. I know you studied law and I challenge you to to find us in other countries where neighborhood noise pollution is regulated in terms of db level.

  4. Daddy says:

    According to scientific approach to manage this thing of sound pollution am agree with you, if there is other priorities apart from noise pollution you probably right, but i don’t thing that the whole idea is wrong, don’t drop the baby and…Again this is lack of zoning, from my experience i don’t thing that they necessary measure the noise in neighborhood with sophisticated equip… I think a debate have to take place and of course we have to live in a place where noise pollution; club, parties, churches is prohibited. And when you talk about sewage problem and hooting of car drivers, i just find it pathetic to say these are more important problems since there means you can use to shut down a party or event are not the same with building a appropriate sewage network…..

    Besides my English may contain some syntactic mistakes and i apology for that.

    Daddy

  5. kanyana says:

    Very good piece. Even the area around kisimenti (rosty, lemon tree etc.) Is now without music. I also witnessed police shutting down gisope live music at fantastique in town. I think that this will cause serious problems to business and will leave many people without a job. Not to add that this might also limit arts and culture themselves. I am sorry but this will prevent investment and finally hinder development.

    • Blessed says:

      We would be happy to get services at our nearest reach, but again it does not make sense to put a club in a “clearly defined” residential area, ngo ahaha murashaka kwegereza abantu services. If you happen to do it, mind its noise (by putting sound/noise proof) and its effect to the residents.

      • kanyana says:

        But surely is the area around fantastique a clearly defined residential area? It might probably apply for gisimenti, but I think they do not even measure with appropriate instruments. I would think a good approach would be maybe to set a time beyond which the places should have indoor club with soundproofed walls to continue playing music. Maybe a tolerance up to midnight in the weekend?

  6. This is what the NYC code guide says:

    Commercial establishments that play music must limit the level of
    unreasonable or disturbing noise that escapes into the streets or is
    heard in nearby residences by requiring that sounds levels may not
    exceed:

    42 decibels AS MEASURED FROM INSIDE NEARBY RESIDENCE
    AND 7 decibels over the ambient sound level, as measured on
    a street or public right-of-way 15 feet or more from the
    source, between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am

    ETC, ETC…

    Now I can understand that the laughter, guitar strumming, ambient noise and poetry recital sounds may have reached the ears of some very sensitive nearby residents and they may have felt the need to send the police to shut that rebellious display of emotions down asap! I must say it is too bad the police wants to implement strict noise control policy without investing in proper tools to measure decibels…are we supposed to just shut a place down because you say it is loud while 200 patrons are saying it isn’t? What about the people who are organizing it? the waiters and the bartenders must be paid, money must be made, it is part of the economy, didn’t you encourage jobs creation? Why are you shutting people down? Are you right because you have a badge or should you also be able to show us how we are breaking the law precisely (time limit and decibels please) … so maybe these devices should be a priority now and if they aren’t they maybe the police shouldn’t be so strict and zealous.. that night it felt like they job was not to kiil the noise but kill the vibe. They must be a fun control bureau somewhere..

    I have been in the city for only 2 months and I have seen 4 similar incidents happen or almost happen kids. People get together and work hard to organize an event, trying to breathe some life into the (yes) still meager art scene of this city and police inevitably shows up either before the event starts to warn people and preemptively reduce the nonexistent noise, or they show up and threaten to shut everything down… 4 times in 2 months… And I know this was no hard rock concert or crazy crowd… maybe my perception of noise is skewed as an NYC resident… or naaah.

    We get that the city police is trying to ensure every resident gets a healthy noise free environment. people work hard every day and no they should not be inconvenienced unnecessarily but something’s gonna have to give because at the end of the day these events are also good for the economy… you can build a beautiful city all you want but minus the entertainment. minus the diversity of activities to do and enjoy, minus the artists, the thinkers, the creators. all those people who add some colors to your concrete buildings, you will have a lifeless, robotic city.. and you will chase away the tourists, and beers and food will not get sold, and arts and crafts will not get sold, and musicians will not get paid (didn’t we just inaugurate an art school in Nyundo? Where are those kids gonna perform when they graduate? or are they going to fill the unemployment lines as well)…
    Too many rigid rules may suffocate people and kill potential money making ideas in the egg…. People will loose the drive to do things. everything will be either approved by the government, sponsored by the government, smaller spontaneous businesses will not happen, (Spoken word was able to continue that night because apparently a gov official was present that night but what if they weren’t anyone with enough pull? Is that even ok?)

    People will want to move to western countries where they feel they have some freedom to create and fell appreciated for their effort, the west will continue to rule us culturally and economically… I digress.. whatever.. People.. Spoken word needs to continue to happen… It is a chill, judgement free magical little thing that takes place ONCE A MONTH!!! all this fuss for poetry once a month… I cannot believe my ears….

  7. confiance says:

    niba hari muri residential area, umuturage waho hafi akaba Atari akeneye kumva urwo rusaku, ndumva nawe afite uburenganzira bwo kwitabaza police (yaba Nyakubahwa or not).. ntimugakabye !!

  8. You all raise goo points. When dealing with human beings and society at large, it is important to be attentive, flexible and decent. Caligula once said of Romans: ‘they may hate me so long as they fear me” the idea is not that people start fearing the police and feel resentment for their mayor. Wile noise pollution is bad and has to be addressed, the KCC and the police need to calm down and use refrain in their draconian way of dealing with it, and instead of warning, shutting down people, they should reach out to them and work out a mutual ground! I will gladly sign the petition!

  9. Just a guy in Kigali says:

    I’ve mixed feelings after reading the article.
    1. The writer’s language is clearly disrespectful to the authorities, which I condemn. And the lack of objectivism is so obvious. Have you thought of the neighbors of this residential area, that want silence in their neighborhood? I think they have that right.
    2. I’m totally in agreement with the writer when he says “The reason this is all nonsense is possible is because outraged people don’t organize. All they do is agonize. Bitching and moaning on Facebook and Twitter won’t change a thing.”, Rwandans should learn to say no to stupid decisions made by the authorities. And for that, thank you sunny for screaming your opinion.

  10. Muhinda says:

    Thank you Sunny. The Mayor should focus much on policy & infrastructure NOT cracking down business. Yes where its extreme reasonable to shut

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