Kigali, Rwanda joined other world cities in global experimentation of ‘car-free days’ dubbed ‘pedestrianization movement.’ The government issued a five-hour ban on cars in the Capital on Sunday, 14th August. People filled the car-free streets relaxing and sporting while others received free general medical checkups and eye tests.
World Car Free Day is marked on 22nd of September every year with others marking the day on a weekly basis. Notable participating cities include Colombia, Indonesia, Jakarta, and Bogota. In New York, up to seven miles of lower Manhattan are reserved for half a day in a campaign dubbed Summer Streets. During this time, only pedestrians and cyclists are allowed on the particular street. North Vancouver City was reported to have closed down one of its main avenues to place a giant water slide in 2016.
Kigali’s decision to participate in World car-free day campaign is a strategy by the government to work towards its goals of becoming Africa’s cleanest and highly developed towns. The Capital decided to hold the car ban in the city every month. The government advised Rwandans to exercise on Fridays as it is an early end work day. The country also launched “Umuganda” wherein every last Saturday of the month Rwandans aged between 18 and 65 years are expected to help in cleaning the city. Activities such as repairing public buildings and clearing bushes are undertaken. “Umuganda” means “coming together.” Additionally, the government banned the use of plastic paper bags, sharing drinks and walking barefoot.
So far these strategies seem to be working successfully. Kigali City has maintained the top position in rankings of cleanest and safest places in the world numerous times. This is despite the shocking genocide Rwanda experienced two decades ago that claimed almost half of the country’s population.
However, critics have come out saying that the government is not dealing with the important issue of poverty in Kigali. They have described the situation in Kigali as rather fighting “signs of poverty.” Further criticism has hit the government’s strategy of detaining street children and vendors in ‘rehab centers.’ The mayor of Kigali was once quoted saying that the street people were impediments to cleanliness in the city. Reports from Human Rights Watch emerged revealing that the street people were often beaten and deprived of water and food.