Over 1.5 million land owners could lose their properties not registered within the stipulated time. While registration is ongoing and the deadline was pushed to December 2020, this exercise is unlikely to end ownership wrangles.
According to the recent 2019 Auditor General’s report, absence 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 regularisation of land 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 by Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority (RLMUA).
Moreover, the registry system has issues 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.
In its defence, RLMUA says the technical errors were fixed though the current disputes raise questions whether it was indeed just a technical glitch.
Unfortunately, such errors undermine the credibility of the process and offer little comfort that the ongoing land disputes will be solved permanently soon.
Yet is an important asset – source of livelihood for many land owners. While over the last decade, Rwanda has implemented a series of progressive land reforms including digitalisation of land parcels.
It is among the few countries in Africa that has successfully managed large-scale land reform is Rwanda, through the Land Tenure Regularisation (LTR) programme conducted between 2009 and 2013.
Yet these impressive reforms are yet to drastically reduce land disputes. For instance, while from 2008 to around 2013, most of issues registered largely included inheritance issues within the family.
Since 2015, issues have evolved to include boundary related disputes that increasingly spurred by a rise in land transactions. For instance, the law provides that less than one hectare agricultural land cannot be subdivided.
But because of the tradition, there is still demand as parents want to subdivide land for inheritance even after laws in 2013 ruled that it is not a must for parents to offer inheritance.
But even people in this category still want to sell a little bit and keep the rest.
So all these transactions are not getting registered, and are not reflected in the system.
Experts say there is need for the land policy to be reviewed to address the current situations and to avoid more informal transactions because this system is linked to investment and land use.
Given that land so pervasively underpins human activity that it usually leads into many violent disputes, it is important that policymakers constantly review policies to ensure that eases tensions but also allows equitable land use.