Owners of over 1.5 million parcels of unregistered land risk losing their property in the coming months as government moves to enforce land registration.
The government had extended the deadline for registration of land to December 30, 2020 from June 30, after the process was disrupted by the lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority (RLMUA), land which will not have been registered before the deadline will be declared abandoned property to pave the way for repossession by the government.
RLMUA officials told Rwanda Today that the earlier set June 30 deadline was affected by the lockdown, leading to extension of the exercise to December 30.
“We will consider all those who will not have registered by that time as abandoned properties, and the government will take over their ownership. We cannot keep them in the systems with incomplete data, and there is a need to comply with the national land use plan,” Esperance Mukamana, director general of RLMUA, told Rwanda Today.
Some of the owners of the unregistered land include those who relocated to new cities or are currently living abroad.
But according to the recent 2019 Auditor General’s report, lack of ownership information for over 1.5 million parcels of land in the country, coupled with inaccuracies in the registry contribute to unresolved land-related disputes.
More than 10 years after the country implemented land tenure regularization of and registration, ownership details for some 1,576,533 land parcels representing 14 per cent of 11,519,639 total registered parcels are absent in the Land Administration Information System (LAIS) run RLMUA.
The 2019 report of the auditor general released recently indicates that the Southern province has the highest number of land without ownership information followed by the Western Province with 524,579 and 423,385 land parcels respectively.
Ownership information are absent for 315,950 land parcels in Northern province, 275,991 land parcels in Eastern province while Kigali City counts 36,628 parcels.
The land registry system has issues too including errors in plots numbering, demarcation and uses, inconsistencies which could potentially mislead land use policy making and implementation as the database is inaccurate, according to the Auditor General.
The audit for instance noted 4,381 cases of jointly owned parcels of land registered under multiple UPI number or land areas, while another 3,918 registered parcels of land had multiple land use types each.
Besides, the upgrade of the registry system had seen many land parcels either increase or decrease in sizes, which could cause disputes during land transactions.
Ms Mukamana attributed inaccuracies flagged by auditors to technical errors that occurred as a result of the system upgrade to the latest version, adding that their IT teams have since resolved the issues in collaboration with Rwanda Information Society authority (RISA).
Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development (RISD), a local non-government organisations focusing on land and property rights issues indicates though the country has managed to automate its processes to facilitate registration and management of land, efforts were still needed to effectively tone down land-related disputes.
It indicates that on top of problems linked with the initial land registrations, there were emerging problems linked with re-registration of parcels of land as a result transactions that are not reflected in the land registry system.
Regular land transaction statistics published by the land management body show that estimated 60,000 to 115,000 land transactions take place every three months since January last year.
The numbers are not inclusive of informal transactions reported to be on the rise owing to complaints around the high cost for land-related transactions as well as complications in registering parcels.