Rwandan slum dwellers forced out for high-rise project

Sunday February 25 2018

Bannyahe slum

Kigali City authorities want the Bannyahe slum demolished to give room for investment into modern high-end structures as per the City master plan. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NATION 

By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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The Rwandan government faces an uphill task over plans to relocate at least 1,100 families currently residing in one of Kigali’s slum area — locally known as “Bannyahe” — as residents resist plans to be moved into more decent accommodation.

In particular, residents are reluctant to accept earmarked houses offered as compensation by the government as they prefer and continue to demand financial compensation.

The slum area is set for development by an investor. However, there are concerns that giving monetary compensation leads to the same residents settling in slums elsewhere.

Last week, Kigali City officials told the Bannyahe residents that it had completed the valuation of their property and this would form the basis for which houses affected families would be allocated — ending previous negotiations for monetary compensation.

“It seems the city now has resolved to force us to accept houses, and they don’t want to hear any of our concerns despite the expropriation laws advocating for a compromise between parties,” one of the disgruntled residents told Rwanda Today.

Unplanned settlements

Located at the centre of Kigali’s high-end residential area in Nyarutarama, the heavily populated unplanned settlements that span across four villages of Kangondo and Kibiraro.

They are occupied by some of the City’s lowest income earners including large families that have settled there for the past 20 years.

Kigali City authorities want the slum demolished to give room for investment in a modern high-end structure as per the City master plan.

The master plan, which involved tense negotiations, proposed slum homeowners given houses worth a proportional value of their current properties in a model village to be set up in Busanza — a suburb in Kanombe area.

However, majority of the residents condemned the approach as likely to put their lives at risk since the plan only caters for a replacement home without considering linked sources of revenues.

Rwanda Today found that most houses are divided into rented rooms ranging from three to 14, each going for between Rwf10,000 ($11) to Rwf25,000 ($29) per month.

In most cases, the rent is the sole income for many of the families in the slum, who depend on it to cater for their living costs, school fees and other expenses.

“We are not fighting the City plan to eradicate unplanned settlements, but for many of us these houses are all we depend on for our income,” said Albert Kaberuka.

Compensation

Like Kaberuka, other homeowners say monetary compensation would help them look for cheaper places and also find other sources of income through farming or small-scale commercial activities.

Many slum homeowners who live elsewhere but collect rent constitute the majority of home owners in the slum.

They told Rwanda Today they were not interested in houses as compensation since homes were not their primary need.

“I came here to invest. I do not need the government to give me a home since I already have one. I see no use in them giving me a one or two-bedroom house as compensation since it would not serve my commercial activities,” said Minani, a Muhanga District resident, who has owned a three-bedroom house since 2005.
Minani estimates the value of his property at Rwf30 million ($35,100).

A valuation exercise by City authorities shows 75 per cent of homes in the slum were valued at below Rwf10 million ($11,700) while the rest were valued for much more.

Gasabo District Mayor in charge of Social Affairs, Languida Nyirabahire, who met with the concerned residents on Tuesday last week did not address queries of those who voiced their opposition to the proposed approach of compensation.

Social programme

In an interview with Rwanda Today, Kigali City spokesperson Bruno Rangira admitted the residents had good reasons for insisting on monetary compensation, but the City looked at the bigger picture and was prepared to continue offering support through social programme for families whose sole source of income will be lost in the relocation.

“We are sure that they will find compensation of a house is a better deal because they will be settled in houses of higher value than those in the slum.

They are also assured that there are no risks of floods, fire and hygiene-related problems,” said Mr Rangira, adding that the lowest priced houses being offered as compensation are valued at Rwf14.5 million ($16,965).

Kigali City officials estimate that the entire relocation exercise of Bannyahe slum residents will cost Rwf4 billion ($4.6 million).

The relocation exercise is expected to take place this year to pave the way for redevelopment activities to start next year. But, this depends on the current standoff not affecting timelines.

Kigali City has been dealing with a high cost of expropriation of residents from informal settlements across its unplanned suburbs to pave the way for modern residential premises, malls and infrastructures as part of its new master plan.

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