Land seizure by Rwandan government rushed at expense of owners- study

Sunday December 10 2017

A recent study shows that expropriation of

A recent study shows that expropriation of people from their land and properties to pave way infrastructure development is done on short notice, giving them limited time to discuss compensation. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NATION 

By LEONCE MUVUNYI
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A recent study by the Rwanda Civil Society Platform shows that expropriation of land and properties by the government to pave the way for infrastructure development is done on short notice, giving land and property owners limited time to negotiate their compensation.

According to the research, which was released last week, many respondents said there is limited or no consultation at all between the government and land or property owners. As a result, many people are forced to accept the compensation terms.

Over the past decade, thousands of households and businesses in Kigali and in rural areas have been bought out to pave the way for road expansions, airports, energy projects as well as the implementation of the City of Kigali Masterplan.

However, the study found that those affected are dissatisfied with the government rates for calculating compensation.

Negotiations

Some of the respondents said their properties were sealed off and marked for demolition even before negotiations.

“We were surprised when we came home and found demarcations in front of the house without any discussions,” said Theogene Higiro, a resident of Kicukiro district, whose land was located in an area earmarked for Gahanga Stadium.

The sports complex, whose construction work was supposed to start in 2012, is yet to take off despite land being set aside for the project.

The research by Rwanda Civil Society Platform talked to people whose land was taken to build the Kigali Convention Centre, Bisate Lodge in Musanze district and Bugesera International Airport among others.

The report found 27.6 per cent of respondents received some information about the expropriation in advance, while three per cent claimed to have received no information at all before expropriation.

Fear of losing it all

According to the respondents whose land or property was taken for infrastructure development, they sometimes chose to abide by the decisions out of fear of losing it all.

“It becomes difficult to refuse the terms when you are informed that studies for the project are already complete and what remains is for citizens to pave the way for work to start.

“A citizen has no choice but to respect the decision and to sign the agreement to avoid losing it all,” said Jeanne d’Arc Mukandemezo, a resident of Rilima sector, whose land was expropriated for construction of the Bugesera International Airport.

Adding to that, the report found that some contracts between expropriation entities and land or property owners not being clearly explained, while some owners were not given copies of the contracts.

According to Eric Ndushabandi, the Director of the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP), who carried out the research, many of the people whose land or property was expropriated were not properly communicated to about property valuation processes and mechanisms.

“Most people sign the contracts without being properly informed especially about the value of their land and the market price as required by law,” said Dr Ndushabandi.

Legal route

Despite the law allowing people to challenge property valuation decisions, civil society organisations said the limited financial capacity of most people limits them from seeking legal reprieve.

“If there is a dispute on the valuation of the land or property, the dispute should be referred to other institutions charged with valuation within the appeal process. In such a case, people have to pay the property valuer.

“The financial capacity of many citizens limits them from taking this legal route and they are left with no choice but to accept whatever they are given,” said Beline Uwineza, an official at Transparency International Rwanda.

Yves Bernard Ingabire, the director-general in charge of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Ministry of Local Government, blamed the situation on the limited engagement of people in the planning process.

“Local government institutions sometimes communicate poorly to the people about planned developments and do not give advance notice,” said director-general Ingabire.

Similarly, the report faulted the expropriation entities for breaking the law by failing to honour the 120 days deadline for disbursing funds for compensation.

Beyond that period, the expropriating body has to increase the compensation fee by five per cent of the value of the property. This however is not respected.

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