Who to blame for overcrowding of passengers in Kigali’s public transport buses?

By Uwineza Bella, Mbabazi Emelyne, Ishimwe Shema Francoise, Muyisenge Jean Felix, and Jane Babirye.
On 16 September 2023 at 10:55

Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, is a bustling metropolis with a rapidly growing population. As the city expands, so does the demand for public transportation. While the city has made significant strides in improving its transportation infrastructure, a persistent issue continues to plague commuters and policymakers alike: the overcrowding of passengers in public transport buses.

One of the most visible and concerning issues facing Kigali’s public transport system is the overcrowding of buses. Commuters, particularly during peak hours, often find themselves crammed into buses beyond their intended capacity. This phenomenon not only poses serious safety risks but also leads to a host of other problems.

According to the Rwanda Regulatory Authority (RURA), and Rwanda National Police, only 70 passengers are allowed on board in larger buses, whereas only 18 are allowed on smaller ones.

However, there are times when in these larger buses the limit is exceeded by dozens of passengers.

The issue is mainly observed in larger buses during morning and evening hours when people are rushing to or from work. Among the buses that were mentioned include those owned by Jali Transport, Royal Express, Volcano, and Kigali Bus Services (KBS).

We managed to talk to 50 passengers from 5 different bus parks around the city. Thirty of them were totally against overcrowding inside buses, eight weren’t in support of it but believed it’s better than waiting for too long in queues.

Twelve were totally in support of overcrowding of passengers and argued that it should be encouraged.

"We are very uncomfortable with being overcrowded inside buses. Most times, it encourages theft because we are too many and so close to each other that you can’t avoid human contact, making it too hard to realize when someone snatches something out of your pocket. We hope that this issue can be addressed as soon as possible," said Isaac Nkurunziza, 54.

For Stephanie Mukamusoni, the foremost concern associated with overcrowding in buses is passenger safety.

"Packed buses can become breeding grounds for accidents, especially on Kigali’s narrow and congested roads," he said.

Other passengers’ standpoints:

Juliene Bisa:

"Passengers may struggle to find a secure foothold or seat, making them vulnerable to falls and injuries when the bus stops abruptly or swerves to avoid obstacles. In case of emergencies, such as fires or accidents, an overcrowded bus can make evacuations more challenging, putting lives at risk."

Ntambara Michael:

"Overcrowding also has adverse health implications, especially for vulnerable people like older individuals, young toddlers, and pregnant mothers. In addition, the close proximity of passengers increases the risk of the spread of infectious diseases. Poor ventilation in crowded buses can further exacerbate this risk."


"Overpacked buses are less efficient and often experience delays in boarding and disembarking passengers. This inefficiency impacts the overall quality of the public transport system, discouraging its use and forcing some commuters to seek alternative, often less sustainable, modes of transportation. Furthermore, overcrowding leads to discomfort and stress for passengers, making their daily commutes unpleasant experiences."


"I totally agree with the drivers who try to board as many passengers as possible. It’s so rude to leave people on the way, and I believe overcrowding buses allows queues to move so fast."


"I think overcrowding of passengers is bad; however, it’s a good way to address the problem of long lines in the parks."

Drivers’ take

One of the bus drivers with over a decade of experience emphasized that passengers encourage drivers to overcrowd.

"As drivers, we want to ensure a safe and comfortable journey for passengers. However, overcrowding is often inevitable when people beg you not to leave them behind. We often have to allow passengers on board when the bus is already full, but this isn’t ideal for anyone," he said.

Another driver noted that the overcrowding problem is exacerbated by several factors, including a growing population, limited investment in public transport infrastructure, and the lack of alternative transportation options for many residents.

"We need more buses on the road to accommodate the increasing number of commuters. Additionally, investing in dedicated bus lanes and bus rapid transit systems can help ease congestion and improve the overall experience for passengers," he added.

Drivers also highlighted the safety concerns associated with overcrowding: "Overcrowding can lead to accidents. When the bus is packed beyond its capacity, it becomes difficult to provide safe conditions for passengers whose safety should be a top priority," said another driver.

The management of Royal Express noted that they strictly encourage their drivers to follow the guidelines.

“There is a limit of passengers allowed on our buses and that number is decided by the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) and Rwandan Police, whoever goes against it, there are penalties involved, and our company is no exception.”

They also revealed that “any passenger who may face any problem inside their buses will be compensated, and if it’s as a result of the driver’s mistakes, then they will be held accountable”.

We also tried to ask for a comment from officials from Jali Transport, Kigali Bus Services, Volcano, and RURA, but none of them has commented on the issue by far.

According to the Rwanda Regulatory Authority (RURA), the regulations N° 010/R/TL-TPT/TRANS/RURA/2021 OF 14/12/2021 governing public transport bus services provide the following fines to buses that mistreat passengers:

Exceeding the number of authorized passengers attracts Rwf30,000 fine per extra passenger and that money is paid by the driver not the company.

The fine for mix luggage with passengers is Rwf 100,000 for multi-stops, intercity, cross-border company, competitive licensees, and Rwf 50,000 for one-person company licensee.

Meanwhile, failure to respond to the passenger complaints attracts Rwf50,000 for multi-stops, intercity, cross-border company, competitive licensees, and Rwf20,000 for one-person company licensee.