PUBLISHED ON February 9th, 2015

How expired driving licences are now non-tariff barriers

In 2009, the government issued the first electronic driving licences, replacing the old permits that were printed on paper.

However, the permits, which were generated using bio-data from the National Identification Agency (Nida) database, had one problem: they are only valid for five years, after which the bearers have to renew them.

The permits expired last year and government, through the Ministry of Infrastructure’s transport docket, issued a Ministerial Order extending the validity of the licences.

The ministerial instruction is dated February 1, 2014.

This was good news for the bearers, or at least those that drive within the country. Not so for those that have to use them out of the country, however, especially long distance truck drivers.

Mathias Munyakayanza, a truck driver who ferries goods from the Port of Mombasa in Kenya to Kigali, the route referred to as the Northern Corridor, has had a couple of run-ins with highway police, especially while driving through Kenya.

He said despite having his permit and the ministerial instruction attached to it, police once stopped him, saying they did not recognise the document.

“Some time last year, I was detained for four hours and had to pay a fine of Ksh1,000 (about Rwf8,000) in fine,” he said.

Another time, last year, he was made to pay a fine of Ksh2,000 because of the same issue. Besides having to part with money, one is delayed for hours, which affects the delivery of cargo.

The instructions are written in Kinyarwanda, English and French.

The truckers say that generally, they are fined between Ksh1,000 to Ksh5,000 to get off the hook.

The burden on the road:

Speaking to The New Times, Narcisse Tuzinde, the chairperson of Rwanda Long Distance Truckers’ Association, (ACPLRWA), said it gets worse when the driver does not have the money to pay.

“When they do not have money, they have to wait for their bosses, normally in Kigali, to send it. If this does not happen, then the driver is detained for a couple of days before they are taken to court and that is where they establish the authenticity of the ministerial instruction so that the affected truckers are set free,” said Tuzinde.

These, he said, are unnecessary delays and should not be happening, especially when the leaders of countries that use the Northern Corridor have moved to ease freight transport from the port to the hinterland, through cutting down on the Non-Tariff Barriers.

“If only we were given temporary driving licenses to use within the East African Community,” he said.

According to Tuzinde, ACPLRWA has 580 members, the majority with expired driving licences.

The truck drivers also say they should be issued with an integrated driving licence for the entire region and it would be better if the driving licence has no time limits as opposed to the current ones which are valid for five years.

“Our biggest nightmares which were delays at borders and the numerous weighbridges have been done away with, only for one to be delayed by this issue of the driving permits,” says Munyakayanza.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for East African Community Affairs, Innocent Safari, said the ministerial instruction should be binding until the licences are renewed, and there should not be any problem since they are written in languages spoken across the region.

He said the driving licences provided by EAC member states are recogniszed in all the states, as they moot the idea of an East African Community drivers’ licence in the future.

What is holding govt back?

Speaking to The New Times, the spokesperson of Traffic and Road Safety Department of Rwanda National Police, Emmanuel Kabanda, said what is delaying the renewal is a regulatory ministerial decree, which is not yet passed.

Kabanda said Police implement all driving licence provision and acquisition in compliance with the law but does not establish the law regulating those licences.

However, he said that if the minister in charge has signed a ministerial instruction validating the permits that have expired, then the document is binding.

“There are countries where the drivers are subjected to other requirements, it is an issue that the concerned ministry should address with their counterparts to ensure that the instruction is respected.”

Alexis Nzahabwanimana, the minister of state for transport, said:

“If there is a country that is not respecting the rights provided by Rwandan laws, as a state, we will follow up on the issue. Those licences did not expire; there is a law in place that extended their validity.”

Pascal Nyamulinda, the director-general of Nida, said they are ready to produce other licences upon request from concerned organs, adding that, so far, Nida has produced about 200,000 electronic driving licencses and those which expired were issued in 2009.

Source: All Africa

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