Despite the government of Rwanda has done a lot to support street vendors leave informal trade, yet, a lot has to be done to ensure their rights are respected. The research by Rwanda Association for protection of Human rights (ARDHO) has revealed.
This research was released last week in Kigali by ARDHO as implementer in partnership with Netherlands Embassy consultancy and funding.
It has revealed in the research that there is no national law explicitly prohibiting street vendors but each district has directives against street vendors in accordance with Kigali city’s security and hygiene’s guidelines.
However, the penal code of Rwanda in its article 369 punishing the tax-evasion says that no one shall sell items/goods or services on streets without district license, contraveners shall be prosecuted and loose items/goods without complaint.
This legal framework and its implementation according to ARDHO are inspiring the violence of street vendor’s rights.
The research findings showed that, due to the fact that there is not yet a law governing this kind of trade, street vending encourages tax-evasion, hides criminals, creates traffic jams in cities, which affects public order, harbors undisciplined persons who attack security officials with stones.
The research highlights the good practices of the government towards street vendors like grouping them by types of activities and into cooperatives even though there are still more challenges mainly caused by increasing number of street vendors and financial constraints.
In huye district, as well as in rubavu , there is another good practice of providing day-care services to children of women street vendors, facilitating them to attend to their daily activities.
According to City of Kigali Vice-Mayor in charge of social affairs, Patricia Muhongerwa, about twelve new market places were also built in this regard, in Musanze, in Nyarugenge and in Kicukiro to address informal trade issues.
As the research presents, the number of street vendors in Rwanda is estimated at 40397 out of 641,216 people with economic active.
The majority of street vendors by distribution of gender are female (68.2%) out of (31.8%). The majority of street vendors by age of respondents are 52 percent.
Angelique Mutegarugori is one street vendor who faced various violences through her journey in street vending at Nyabugogo in Kigali.
She said although the local authority tried to support street vendors in some initiatives like giving them market places and grouping them into cooperatives, they still have the issue of low startup capital that makes some to go back on streets.
“Because of limited startup capital to invest and remain in the markets, some of us left markets. For few who remained there, we try to contribute Rwf 200 for taxes as we are in cooperatives but some of us cannot afford to get that Rwf 200 because we have fallen in a loss as our clients purchase from street vendors.
Mutegarugori highlighted a number of violence actions committed over their journey of street vending including body harms.
“We were beaten, jailed, our children stayed alone many nights at home when we were in prison, we might face injuries with security organs and many of us lost their kids trying to run free from security officials’ aggressiveness,” said Mutegarugori.
She added that besides the violence of mothers-street vendors, their children also face healthy-based violence when they are in prisons.
Legal framework gaps
The research findings on the legal framework gaps showed that 76.5 percent of street vendors have experienced confiscation of items/goods, 71.4 percent were slapped, 64.3 percent were arrested and all of these decisions were done without legal procedures and were detained beyond five days without court decision.
Muhongerwa noted that about 6.000 street vendors who raised problems of taxes and market places were given market places although some of them left them again later.
Currently, Kigali city set up a range of Rwf 10.000 to punish street vendors and their clients.
Muhongerwa also supports the idea of setting up the ministerial order governing street vending to accomplish with the one of Kigali city.
She said that every year they fund 12 cooperatives of street vendors and have so far funded them with Rwf 30 million where each got Rwf 1.5m.
According to Lawyer Laurent Nkongori, there is still a long journey as many procedures should be respected in sorting out the issue of street vendors.
“I do not understand as lawyer how to implement a law by stepping procedures, which makes a big problem for not only to the city of Kigali but for the whole country. There must be a detailed recommendation efficient to explain laws and orders as we have been saying this over the last fifteen years,” Nkongori said.
“My wish is that all players must sit and see how to tackle the problem, we all know the victim of street vendors in Nyabugogo, they are not only beaten but also there appeared a death so far last year,” He added saying that this must be established in the ministerial order and figure out how street vendors are grouped in various categories,
“We all love Kigali city but do not forget penal code, as consequence, its implementation became a problem,” Nkongori recommended the city of Kigali.
Sharing testimonies of how street vendors are treated in Netherlands, Netherlands’ Ambassador to Rwanda Mrs. Frédéric De Man in her recommendations, there should be legal frame work underpinning the confiscation of the goods and a road map of working strategies with civil society must be established to go about the real solution of street vendors.
“I think that street vendors chose this as they do not opt for any other option, these vendors are protected and continue deliver different services in Netherlands,” she said.
Lawyer Jean Kabuye, the Chairperson of ARDHO highlighted that the step made by the government is not enough as still a lot of things have to be done to tackle the issue of street vending.
“Yes, a lot were achieved but also there is a need for other things to be done especially regarding legal framework,” Kabuye said.
By Elias Hakizimana