The year 2018 that marks the end of the Second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II) (2013-2018). EDPRS II was built on the previous that ended in 2012 with much of success and challenges. One of its priorities is the urbanization and creation of six second cities expected to support the main city Kigali under the view of regional hub.
Talking about this point, there is a time in a taxi in Kigali; passengers raised a debate from the local song entitled “Kavukire (native)” in which the artist urges a native of Kigali city to pack his belongings and relocate from the place as enriched people who can fit with the new lifestyle were arriving. This prompted me to re-think about the future of these people and what they do when they are expropriated.
Some of them prefer to stay pegged around urban areas while others go to remote area where they can find big space to continue their business and life style.
The urbanization and housing are twinned with the respect of master plans in cities and districts. The evolution brings a lot of work and expenses at the side of the government which must expropriate residents in targeted areas for the benefit of the respect the established and approved master and housing plans.
When you move around the country, you find grouped housings at a space that used to be arable land. In the neighborhood, you find new small business. When you try to ask about the story behind, you are told new residents were expropriated from Kigali and came to that place. The ultimate question that comes in mind is whether the expropriator or the government itself knows the whereabouts of expropriated persons and what they are doing.
At one side it is very obvious that the extension of power grids countrywide is behind the uncontrolled housing while at one side it is positive as it promotes the off -farm job creation.
The electrification attracts business that gives place to new trading centers hence the beginning of slums. This kind of housing also overwhelms the arable land as people choose where to build and put their businesses regardless the existence of master and rural housing plans.
There are District One Stop Centers that avail information on land. However, the land use seems to be focusing on town and cities more than it does for remote areas. This is where some of expropriated people settle uncontrollably and it ultimately costs much the government when there is a need to put in place a public interest project.
In some villages or per urban areas, you will not be surprised to find a then arable land turned into residential areas when the new settler requests for land certificate for his / her plot of land. This most of the times comes after the place unexpectedly becomes a settlement place.
The non follow-up of resettlement of expropriated persons may breach the environment protection policy, and also affect the socioeconomic progress of the country.
The use of master and housing plan is not exclusive. The downward implementation of it should be a must. This should reach the sector level as some of expropriated persons prefer go to deep villages in search of enough space where they can settle themselves at ease.
There is importance of the respect of the master plan and current view of Kigali City evolution can prove. The progress underway is not a myth but a reality most especially for someone who was there in years of 2000 and during the removal of slums of “Kiyovu cy’abakene”.
Law n° 32/2015 of 11/06/2015 on expropriation in the public interest stipulates procedures related to expropriation and leave behind the destination of the expropriated persons. From this point of view, the slums would be unavoidable if no mechanism of the follow up is put in place.
The government should set up a mechanism to monitor the displacement and settlement of residents to avoid unplanned expansion of housing to avoid unnecessary expropriation in the future. This mechanism would be combined with available instruments and tools and ensures every Rwandan enjoys the best of his/her country without undermining the socioeconomic agenda of the country.
It should be commendable if a Sector Working Group is established to ensure the expropriation, settlement and socio economic activities are in a no harm state. The joint mechanism should involve MININFRA/ Rwanda Housing Authority, Ministry of local Government, Ministry of Land and Forestry / LMUA and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources. District and District Joint Action for Development forum (DJAFs) should not be left behind.
The failure to implement this would affect the achievement of the EDPRS II objective of 3.2 million off-farm jobs with 35% of population set to be living in urban areas by 2020. This requires the pragmatic implementation of land use, and housing policies by different levels involved. Shaping development we want must be inclusive to reach the success and expropriation must be a priority not to shift slums in remote or suburb areas of our cities.
It is very encouraging that the existence of urban and rural settlement plans contributes to the best housing policy implementation. Districts One Stop Centers in coordination with institutions in charge such as Rwanda Housing Authority, Ministry of local Government, Ministry of Land and Ministry of Infrastructure and Ministry of Agriculture and Animal resources should work in synergetic way to improve resettlement of expropriated persons at all levels.
Opinion writer: Fidele NIYIGABA