As nation reconciles with itself, a successful transition helps Rwanda recover from past wounds

Interview with Mr. John Nkongoli

Mr. John Nkongoli
Managing Director
Contact details:
Tel: +250-83441 / 85845
Fax: +250-82609


Rwanda is a landlocked country measuring 28.000 km² in size and is inhabited by 7 million people. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Air transport is indespensable to the socio-economic and political development of the country.

Kigali International Airport is the gateway to the outside world. The airport has regional, national and International Strategic Significance. It is one of 17 airports identified by the ECA as a future hub network on the African Continent. The authorities in Rwanda recognises the crucial importance of Kigali International (KIA) and are making efforts to improve its airport infrastructure and air navigation facilities with a view to maintain ICAO standards.
Kigali-Kanombe International Airport

The Situation Prior to 1980

The decision to rehabilitate the Kigali-Kanombe Airport dates back from December 1977, when preliminary estimates for the required conversions to enable the runaway to accommodate the Boeing 747 were drawn up under arrangements by two Ministries: on one hand the one responsible for Transport and Communications, and on the other, the one responsible for Public Works.

The works envisaged, estimated at US$ 2,300,000, consisted of transorming the runway so that it would comply with OACI standards. The following was to be carried out:

  • Construction of Anti-Blast strips that would protect against soil removal by the blast from airplane engines;
  • Construction of a reversal point at each extreme end of the runway;
  • Extension of the airplane parking area
    In May 1978, Rwanda submitted to France a request for funding of the construction of a new Air Terminal, in the framework of a program to rehabilitate the Kigali-Kanombe Airport.

Check-in hall

In response to the request of the Rwandan authorities, the Société Française d'Etudes et de Réalisation d'Equipements Aéronautiques, SOFREAVIA, had submitted a Study Proposal, and the final, approved deal was signed on 6th October 1978.

The Study entrusted to SOFREAVIA was to last for a period of six months and was supposed to culminate with the presentation of a detailed pilot study that would facilitate the submission of bids by interested companies. The draft project was also supposed to be in keeping with the requirements of potential donors; therefore it was to include an economic and financial assessment. The project had the following objectives:
  • To establish a general plan for the rehabilitation of the Airport
  • To draw up in detail the first phase of rehabilitation that would facilitate the accommodation of long-distance aircraft, wide-bodied aircraft, and cargo handling
  • To estimate the cost of construction works, as well as its effect on airport revenue and the cost of Airport operations
    These construction works included the establishment or strengthening of infrastructures, the construction of buildings including a Hydrocarbons' Warehouse as well as the supplying and installation of electric and electronic equipment.

    The 1994 war that affected many of the country's infrastructures did not spare the Régie des Aéroports du Rwanda (RAR).
    Thus after this war, the RAR fixed itself the target of rehabilitating its infrastructures, namely:

    The Passenger Terminal, the Technical Unit, and the Power Station, the runway drainage system, parking area for vehicles, and areas that were damaged by shrapnel.

    Apart from infrastructures, some equipment to assist aerial navigation, telecommunications as well as the Air Terminal electronic equipment were replaced. They included the following:

  • The VOR and DME
  • VHF transmitters and receivers used by the control tower to communicate with aircraft
  • Aeronautic communications recording equipment
  • Passenger and luggage search equipment
  • Electronic weighing machines for luggage
    It is anticipated that there shall be, in the near future, a project to rehabilitate the Airport that is funded to the amount of 22 million Euros (22,000,000 Pounds Sterling) by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Development Fund (EDF).

The results of the completed preliminary study anticipate the following:

  • Reinforcement of the runway and the aircraft parking area through the fitting out of an extra 7 cm-layer of bituminous concrete
  • Widening of the entrance/exit ramp, the 'reversal area' and the stretching of both of the extreme ends of the runway, in order to accommodate larger or heavier aircraft, or commercial aircraft such as the A 330-600 and the B 777-300
  • Extention of the aircraft parking area
  • Construction of an aircraft circulation area parallel to the runway, to allow aircraft to access the aircraft parking area
  • Rehabilitation of the fire hydrant and increase of revitalisation outlets within the aircraft parking area.
  • Rehabilitation of service routes
  • Review of all drainage systems within the entire airport area
  • Replacement of the ILS
  • Connection of the SADC on VSAT network, to facilitate AFTN and ATS/DS communications
  • Rehabilitation of the FIDS (Flight Information Display System) system
  • Installation of approaching lights
  • Installation of runway lights
  • Establishment of three rescue teams, and three sub-power stations for a better energy supply to airport equipment
  • Thourough rehabilitation of the power station, i.e. from the medium-voltage section to the low-voltage distribution chamber
  • Installation of a computerised monitoring and instructions system for the electric network
  • All these work activities were divided into Eight Phases in the following manner:
    Phase A: Comprised activities dealing with the surface and with sanitation, namely:

  • Strengthening of the runway whose life-span should normally be a minimum of 15 years for a traffic estimated at 17,000 movements by wide-bodied aircraft weighing between 230 and 330 tons and 38,000 movements by other kind of aircraft weighing between 50 and 130 tons;
  • Construction of Anti-Blast strips and the widening of the reversal point;
  • Strengthening of the existing aircraft parking area currently measuring 21,000 m2 and construction of its northern extension measuring a surface area of 37,000 m2.
    Phase B: Included the construction of two buildings; the power station and the warehouse measuring up to 820 m2; and to transfer the Hangar for light aircraft towards the southern end of the runway.

    Phase C: Icluded the construction of a Hydrocarbons' warehouse with a capacity of 1,750 m3.

    Phase D: Included the supplying and installation of electric equipment including equipment for the power station, as well as construction works for the runway lights and lighting in general

    Phase E: Included the construction of a new Air Terminal with a surface area of 7,750 m2 of three floor levels, with a ground floor measuring 3,600 m2 designed to accommodate 400 passengers per hour.

    Phase F: Included the supplying and installation of electronic equipment for aeronautic telecommunications, and radio-based assistance to aerial navigation, mostly comprising the construction of a broadcasting centre.

    An additional phase: related to outside parking spaces and various road and other networks of the Air Terminal

    Three parking areas whose installation was totally carried out by the Rwandan Government, and which signify the latter's participation in the program as a whole.

    Lastly, still within the framework of the same rehabilitation program, a study on the organisation and management of the Kigali Airport was carried out by AEROPORTS DE PARIS.

    The total cost of the entire program amounts to US$ 35,000,000 and was funded respectively by the Rwandan Government on one hand, and Belgium, France, Abu Dhabi, OPEC, and Koweit on the other hand.


    Régie des Aéroports du Rwanda was established by a Presidential Order, N° 32/12 of January, 1986 for the purpose of management, operation and maintenance of the airports in Rwanda. Régie des Aéroports du Rwanda has no legal personality or corporate autonomy.

Table about flights
Any legal procedure against the Régie has to be taken directly against the government. The director of the Régie is appointed to do every day management of the Régie. It also develops, maintains and operates airports infrastructure and air navigation facilities. The Régie has financial and technical autonomy. Any profit is invested in RAR needs. Régie can do commercial and financial operations as may be required to realise its objectives. The director of the Régie is appointed to do every day management of the Régie

International passengers Flow at Kigali International Airport by Calendar years 1992-2001


La guerre de 1994 qui a touchée beaucoup d'infrastructures du pays n'a pas laissé la Régie des Aéroports du Rwanda (RAR).
C'est ainsi qu'après cette guerre, la RAR s'est donné l'objectif de réhabiliter ses infrastructures, à savoir :

L'aérogare pour passager, le bloc technique et la centrale électrique
des purges dans la piste et au parking automobile aux endroits endommagés par les éclats des obus.

A part les infrastructures, quelques équipements d'aide à la Navigation aérienne, de télécommunication ainsi que les équipements électroniques de l'aérogare ont été remplacés. Ce sont entre autre :

le VOR et le DME
les émetteurs et récepteurs VHF utilisés par la tour pour communiquer avec les avions
l'enregistreur des communications aéronautiques
les équipements de fouille passagers et bagages de l'aérogare.

Les balances électroniques pour l'enregistrement des bagages

Dans un proche avenir commence un projet de réhabilitation de l'Aéroport financé de 22 millions d'Euros ( 22.000.000 € ) par la Banque Européenne d'Investissement et le FED (Fonds Européen Dévloppement ).
Les résultats de l'étude déjà terminé prévoit:

Le renforcement de la piste et de l'aire de stationnement par ressurfaçage d'une couche de 7 cm de béton bitumineux
l'élargissement de la bretelle, des aires de retournement et le prolongement d'arrêt aux deux extremités de piste pour tenir compte des avions les plus pénalisants ou prochainement commerciales comme
l' A 330-600 et le B 777-300.

L'implantation d'un nouveau glide
L'extention de l'aire de stationnement
La construction d'une voie de circulation parallèle à la piste pour faciliter les aéronefs à accéder dans l'aire de stationnement
La réhabilitation de l'hydrante et l'augmentation des bouches de ravitaillement dans l'aire de stationnement.
La réhabilitations des routes de service
La révision du système de drainage de toute la zone aéroportuaire
Le remplacement de l'ILS
La connection sur le réseau VSAT de la SADC pour des communications AFTN et ATS/DS.
La réhabilitation du système FIDS (Flight Information Display System )
L'implantation des lampes d'approche
Le remplacement des balises
L'installation de trois groupes de secours et création de trois sous-stations pour mieux alimenter en énergie les équipements aéroportuaires.
La réhabilitation entière de la centrale électrique c-à-d de la cellule moyenne tension jusqu'à l'armoire de distribution basse tension.
Installation d'un système de contrôle et de commande par ordinateur du réseau électrique.

International overflights through Kigali Airspace management from 2000-2001

Table about number of overflights


The Civil Aviation in the country has 7 Airports :-

i) Kigali International Airport - Runway 3500m x 45m
ii) Kamembe Aérodrome - Runway 1500m x 25m
iii) Gisenyi Aérodrome - Runway 1000m x 23m
iv) Ruhengeri Aérodrome - Runway 1480m x 35m
v) Butare Aérodrome - Runway 860m x 25m
vi) Nemba Aérodrome - Runway 1100m x 25 m
vii) Gabiro Aérodrome - Runway 760m x 25m (non functional)

Kigali Airport is the only International Airport. Out of the other six Aérodromes, only two i.e Kamembe and Gisenyi have some schedulled traffic.


Administration and Management of Civil Aviation in Rwanda is done by Régie des Aéroports du Rwanda and Aéronautique Department in the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications. The department of Aéronautiques provides the regulatory aspects of Civil Aviation and oversees their application while Régie des Aéroports du Rwanda provides essential Infrastructure, Installation facilities and services for Civil Aviation in order to meet its mandate of providing safe, efficient and secure Air Transport Services.

Total cargo and total mail from 1992-2001

Table about total cargo, and total mail.


The organisational structure shown in exhibit 1 has undergone changes since the establishment of the Régie in 1986. A summary of the current structure is shown here below :

a) Office of the Managing Director 1
· Public Relations 1
· Secretariat Section 7
· Research and Planning Section 1
· Technical Aircraft Audit Section 3
· Internal Audit 3
· Resources Renewal & Recycling Sect. 6
· Kamembe Airport 23
· Information Technology 4
b) Marketing and Business Development Dep. 13
c) Administration and Finance Dept. 47
d) Operations Department 104
e) Installations and Maintenance Dept. 81
f) Domestic Airports 14



Recently, International Civil Organisation (ICAO) do recognise the importance of countries to have Civil Aviation Authorities. This helps authorities to adopt acceptable and recognised commercial business practices and also organised and managed as autonomous entities. Therefore it is within this framework that the Government of Rwanda Commissioned ICAO to study the possibility of Régie des Aéroports du Rwanda to become Civil Aviation Authority.

The strong support by the government for the creation of an autonomous authority to manage civil aviation facilities emanates from the recommendation adopted at the AFCAC Tenth Plenary Session where it states that:

· Whereas this could improve operational efficiency and financial results, states consider establishing autonomous authorities to manage their major International Airports, route facilities or both.
· Such authorities be vested with financial autonomy and sufficient operational and financial independence and,
· The decision to establish an authority should be based on a feasibility study identifying potential improvements in efficiency and financial results to be gained there from and describing how these could be realized.

A feasibility study was conducted in accordance with terms of reference and a recommendation was made that a Civil Aviation Authority be established. This has to be in charge of all civil aviation functions as a parastatal fully owned by the Government as its sole shareholder. The CAA will be allowed to function autonomously according to formal business practices and should be operational by end 2002.


The implementation plan will be carried out in 3 phases, each with its distinct objectives, tasks. The readiness of each phase passes on to the next phase.
Phase 1 will last from the point at which the government of Rwanda formally decides to proceed with creation of CAA.

· The overall objective of phase I is to make all provisions in support of the viable creation of CAA.
Phase II will not last for no more that 1 year starting from the date on which CAA is legally in place.

· The overall objective of this phase is to establish the CAA firmly as an autonomous decision making entity.
The third phace will last for no more than one year, starting from the point of completion of phace II

· The overall objective of phase III is vigorous pursuit of all opportunities in fulfillment of the CAA's mandate.


Commercial Important Personality

Bar and restaurant for both passengers on transit and the Public.

V.I.P lounge

Duty Free Shops in the passenger terminal


- Computer luggage Screening
- An arch detectors
- Hand held detectors
- Sufficient security personnel


The terminal building has sufficient gates to allow the passengers more freely. The public area has 8 gates, transit hall has 3 gates, VIP lounge has 1 gate, arrival area has 3 gates.    

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