Kigali entertainment industry, churches decry “no noise” policy

papyrus

The Rwanda capital Kigali authorities and the country’s police have instituted a no noise policy around the city at night in bid to address “noise pollution” at night that has in the past been a serious problem for city residents.

Bar owners, and church leaders in Kigali city say the new policy is bad and incompatible with business. Bars and churches that permit noise at night on their premises face serious fines and arrests.

The city of Kigali and Rwanda national police last year put a curfew in place for bar owners and church leaders who were allegedly accused of noise pollution in the city surrounding.

Over 20 Bar and restaurant owners including churches leaders were arrested over noise pollution and some premises closed subsequently between September and October, 2014.

As a result, some owners of places of entertainment have now decided to choose ‘silence’ as a new way of doing business, while others insist  their businesses are not attracting clients because of absence of music.

Mr. Eugene Muhoza, the proprietor of Come-Back Bar and Restaurant in Remera, a victim of the noise pollution curfew says his businesses has declined 30 percent due to these stern measures by the city and the police. He says his daily clientele and income have dropped significantly in the past four months.

“Most of my clients were youth and they love music. Now I have lost a good number of them and this has compelled me to invest on more media publicity and ads to lure new clients, which has cost me over Rwf 150.000” Mr. Muhoza laments.

Financially Muhoza says that the cost of coping with the new regulations is pinching on his business even though he has resorted to playing music on low volume or not playing any music at all, just to make sure they stay in business.

For example, Muhoza used to earn a net profit of Rwf 700.000 per month after paying all bills, but now he earns about Rwf300-400.000 per month.

In the wake of last year’s  crack down some places which were known for loud music and dancing like Papyrus (which was among the early victims of noise pollution laws in 2012) and Roasty Kimironko, have installed sound proof equipment as away of abiding with the new regulations.

Small business people like Muhoza, cannot afford venturing into things like sound proof system. Given their meager means.

If am to stay in business, I would rather not spend more now since I have few clients. So it’s better not to play any music.” He says

Mr. Aragenes Rwabigwi, aka Papa Guinness, who owns a chain of bars in Kigali  and among Top 100 entrepreneurs iKigali says that it is a safer way to operate his five bars in the city and he loses nothing.

“There is no need to play loud music if your clientele target is older and mature people. The trend of playing loud music actually is for teenagers and these one are not reliable as the older clients.” he says.

Mr. Rwabigwi adds that he has seen a steady age-group of clients since adopting no music policy, and that this is a better and safer way of operating instead of having to play loud music and pay big fines.

The Chairman of Rwanda Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association, Denis Karera, said that investors in the hospitality industry have been trying to adjust their businesses in line with the city’s regulations.

He however notes that city authorities say some entertainment businesses are flouting the law with a majority of them having acquired permits as “restaurants” but later added a bar section and a dancing floor, which are supposed to be licensed separately.

“We found that mainly the problem was on our side because of the way we conducted our businesses,” said Mr Karera adding“You would find that I asked for a license to operate a restaurant but later in the night I want to convert it into a nightclub

Article 600 of the Penal code states that, any individual found guilty of noise pollution and disturbing the peace of citizens sleeping at night faces one week prison sentence and up to Rwf 1m in fines.

Kigali City has over 500 registered religious based organisations. article 600 of the Penal Code, says any person found guilty of making noise in a way that troubles people, shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of between eight days and two months or a fine ranging from Rwf50,000 to Rwf1 million, or both.