Palm trees along airport road. The City values the trees so much that destroying one accrues a fine of a million francs. (J. Mbanda)
Palm trees along airport road. The City values the trees so much that destroying one accrues a fine of a million francs. (J. Mbanda)

Appearing before the Senatorial Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security to exchange ideas on how road accidents can be reduced, both the Managing Director of Radiant Insurance Company, Marc Rugenera, and the Chief Executive of Soras, Benjamin Mbundi, accused the City of Kigali of violating the law on compensation.

Palm trees along airport road. The City values the trees so much that destroying one accrues a fine of a million francs. (J. Mbanda)
Palm trees along airport road. The City values the trees so much that destroying one accrues a fine of a million francs. (J. Mbanda)

Mbundi said the price of palm trees that are destroyed during car accidents should be decided by independent valuers instead of the City of Kigali imposing the fine of Rwf1,000,000 for every destroyed palm tree.

?The city has violated the principle of compensation; experts should decide the fine, not the City of Kigali,? Mbundi said.

Insurers at Radiant Insurance Company said it remains a problem in case a car destroys a palm tree since the car is impounded by Police under directives of the City of Kigali and released after the driver has paid Rwf1,000,000 for the destroyed palm tree.

The head of the legal department at Radiant Insurance Company, Jean Claude Munyankumburwa, said the issue is problematic since the City of Kigali has been imposing its will on drivers who don?t have a choice but to pay the fine imposed on them in order to get their cars back.

?It remains a dilemma; the City of Kigali doesn?t say whether the Rwf1,000,000 is the price for a palm tree or if it includes fines for the accident,? Munyankumburwa said.

He said the money charged is too much for a single tree and said his insurance company paid about Rwf300,000 only when a client destroyed a palm tree although his car was not released until the remaining Rwf700,000 was paid by the car owner to the City.

Double fines?

Munyankumburwa advised the City to distinguish between the price of a palm tree, which he said can be covered by insurance companies, and the fines ? which the drivers can pay themselves to get their cars back.

Munyankumburwa said car owners also have challenges establishing who to ask for their cars once they have been impounded between the City of Kigali and the Police.

?Sometimes drivers ask the police to get their cars back and the police refer them to the City of Kigali. When they ask the City of Kigali, the officials tell the car owners to ask Police. I think it needs to be a court decision for the Police to impound cars in case the City of Kigali wants a car impounded for destroying palm trees,? he said.

Insurers told senators that the City of Kigali loses cases whenever it is taken to court for violating laws by fixing the price of palm trees and impounding people?s cars but City officials keep repeating the same violations, explaining that it was a decision from a meeting of the City Council.

Senator Jean Damascene Bizimana, chairperson of the Senatorial Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security, advised car owners and insurers to keep taking the City of Kigali to court for violation of laws.

?It is not clear why the city keeps charging Rwf1,000,000 for a single palm tree,? the senator said.

But Bruno Rangira, spokesperson for the City of Kigali, insists that Rwf1,000,000 charged for every destroyed palm tree is the average value of the tree including its maintenance from the time of planting as well as factoring in that a palm tree is a public good whose destruction means there will be replacement costs.

By Eugene Kwibuka, The New Times

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