EDITORIAL: Emotive ownership or relocation of land needs to be painted with a human face
Saturday September 24 2022
This week the government was under pressure to quell rising tensions among residents in the slum areas of Kangondo and Kibiraro who are expected to relocate to Busaza, where decent housing has been proviwded as a mode of compensation.
And despite the government’s commendable efforts to resolve these land issues, the land sector has been and still remains the source of most disputes in Rwanda.
For now, expropriation around Kigali remains a thorny issue. For instance, so far, of the 1,486 families, only 614 families have relocated to the condominium houses in Busanza, more than 800 families have resisted relocation.
The residents say they are not against leaving, but they want to first be adequately compensated financially for their property and do not want houses. Yet some officials say they are against financial compensation because some residents take the money and relocate to another slum.
Rural population pressure
The government also has a policy of encouraging grouped settlements known as imidugudu in rural areas, which is considered a solution to rural population pressure and previously poor land management.
The challenge facing the government is to convince property owners to relocate. This comes as Rwanda is undergoing rapid development, often leading to expropriation of private lands. The law provides procedures to protect the rights of property owners in the expropriation process.
The implementation, however, has caused concerns about potential human rights violations and about how expropriation is affecting the population economically and socially.
Research, carried out by Rwanda legal Aid Forum from October 2014 to August 2015, showed that expropriated households faced severe declines in their monthly income, and sometimes faced months of restrictions on being able to make basic improvements to their properties while expropriations were pending.
Despite these issues, the government notified most landowners of the process through public meetings, and in fact most expropriated households believed the projects causing expropriation were in the best interests of the community.
At the moment, insufficient and delayed compensation remain the most pressing issues reported by expropriated households. The government has to do more to ensure compensation is done fairly but also provide it in a timely manner to avoid unnecessary escalation of issues.
Arbitrary variations in property values could be addressed by improving the independence of the valuation process. Compensation-related issues also have a negative impact on expropriated individuals, especially those losing a large percentage of their property or relocating.
The government must address concerns around sources of livelihood for the expropriated households. It is not enough as most government officials claim to say families should just move because shelter has been provided. It is important to consider how this families will survive after being relocated.