Rush to finish Rwanda's rural roads as elections near

Monday March 13 2017

The City of Kigali plans to upgrade several major roads while feeder roads in rural areas will also be tarmacked.  PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

The City of Kigali plans to upgrade several major roads while feeder roads in rural areas will also be tarmacked. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By Johnson Kanamugire

Inaccessible rural roads in Rwanda are set for a major facelift this year owing to the government’s bid to deliver on infrastructure pledges ahead of the general election in August.

The past four months have seen intensified activity in the number of road projects across the country especially those commissioned by President Paul Kagame, with officials saying work on the roads was set to start soon.

Despite noteworthy achievements with regard to extending the paved roads network as well as rehabilitating national roads over the past five years, works on feeder roads remained far behind target.

Latest official figures show that while progress towards the target for paved roads network for 2018 stands at 85 per cent, the feeder roads upgrade stands at only 59 per cent.

The disparity is largely blamed on budget shortfalls at the district level after the new road Act transferred responsibility for the rehabilitation, maintenance and development of secondary roads to local authorities. But local leaders say the additional responsibility has not been matched by additional resource allocations.

“Our district has not received any special funding for feeder roads, and all pledges of support by stakeholders never materialised,” said Aime Francois Niyonsenga, vice mayor for Economic Affairs of Gakenke, oneof the rural districts with about 150km of impenetrable rural road network.

Upgraded feeder roads network

Like Gakenke, lack of resources has seen most rural roads in Nyaruguru, Rutsiro, Nyabihu and Ngororero impassable and non-operational. The rural roads include those connecting district and national roads to rural community centres, which are considered crucial to rural socio-economic development as they link the country’s majority rural and farming residents to vital facilities like markets and commercial centres.

Rwanda Today could not immediately get details regarding the funding deployed by Rwanda Transport Development Agency (RTDA) to affected districts to fix their feeder roads but officials said critical road infrastructure would be completed within set timelines.

The government seeks to increase the number of upgraded feeder roads network from the current 1,507km to 2,550km by next year while the paved network roads network, which currently stands at 1,492km is expected to reach 1,852km.

This means the government has to add over 1,000 km of feeder roads to the existing network by next year along with paving a number of roads across the country.

Roads pledged by the head of State could however enjoy priority in the ongoing move to beat the deadline for delivering infrastructure pledges made in the government’s seven-year manifesto.

Imihigo

In Gakenke for example, more than five road projects pledged by President Kagame during his recent outreach visit to the area started concurrently across the district. According to officials, an additional 215km feeder roads network is expected to be worked on with the help of the Ministry of Agriculture.

“The roads that are under Imihigo (performance contract) will all be completed by June this year. Those whose contracts are handled by other stakeholders could possibly be delivered within the same timelines or slightly later,” a source close to the development said.

Officials confirmed works on the Giticyinyoni-Ruli-Gakenke road linking Kigali with Northern Rulindo and Gakenke districts could be completed by July.

The road would add to other pledged rural roads awaiting construction like the 68km Huye-Kibeho road, the 73km Rukomo-Nyagatare and the 130km Ngoma-Bugesera-Nyanza road. The City of Kigali is already working to upgrade major roads in the capital and tarmacking more than 200km of unpaved roads this year.