HomeSPORTSRwanda’s grand vision for future leaves poor on the curb
Rwanda’s grand vision for future leaves poor on the curb
December 27, 2019
Slum dwellers in Kigali are accusing city authorities of razing their homes without paying compensation, stirring anger among poorer Rwandans who feel marginalized by a government-led push to modernize the capital.
This month, the
first of thousands of homes slated for demolition in Kigali’s unplanned
settlements were bulldozed, sparking protests from owners and tenants told to
say the homes were built illegally on wetlands, or areas deemed at risk from
landslides and flooding, and those evicted were being offered lodgings
But many of
Kigali’s poorest no longer feel welcome in a city that has undergone a major
facelift as part of President Paul Kagame’s masterplan to turn Rwanda into a
wealthy nation by 2050.
The capital has
been the focus of a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure blitz in recent years,
with futuristic convention centres, five-star hotels and modern flats altering
The city has
earned a reputation among African capitals for its unusually ordered and clean
streets, but the heavy-handed approach of local authorities has caused alarm.
have accused the Rwandan government of rounding up “undesirables”,
including street children, beggars and prostitutes, and holding them in a grim
Critics say the
poor have paid a steep price for Kigali’s transformation. But pockets of
resistance have emerged as slums have been cleared to make way for modern
housing complexes or green areas.
In Nyarutarama, a
neighbourhood hosting Kigali’s largest informal settlements, some residents
have refused to make way for the wrecking ball, defying state orders.
told to move because the land was for public benefit,” said Antoinette
Mushiyimana, whose home in Nyarutarama is among those marked for destruction.
being relocated to another small house in Busanza (a suburb in Kigali). But
they are not giving me the compensation I deserve. That is why many people have
refused to move,” she told AFP.
These slums are
disparagingly called “Bannyahe” — a naming roughly translating to
“where I can defecate” — and border some of Kigali’s most exclusive
insist the evictions are for the good of the people.
informed these people that the law does not allow them to live on wetland
areas. They were given letters and advice, but nothing was done,” Kigali
officials said in a statement.
even more important because of the heavy rain and floods, which might cause
residents accused the local government of reneging on a deal to pay for the
said he agreed to vacate his home when city authorities valued his property at Rwf
28 million (USD$29,500/26,600 euros) in 2017.
But when it was
demolished in December, he was handed just Rwf 30,000 to find new shelter for
his wife and three children.
destroyed the house, and didn’t even give me enough to pay rent for my family,”
He vowed to take
the matter to court — an avenue being explored by others who felt cheated and
brushed aside in a city pushing them ever further to the margins.
Kagame, who has
been in power since 1994, says his “Vision 2050” for a new Rwanda will
drive economic transformation for all in the tiny, landlocked country where
close to 40 percent live in poverty.
Few at home
disagree with his plan, or the tremendous costs involved in rebranding Rwanda
as a destination for foreign investment, high-end tourists and global
convention centre opened in Kigali in 2016 cost a reported $300 million, making
it one of Africa’s most expensive buildings. A new $1.3 billion
international airport for Kigali is in the works.
also paid European football clubs Arsenal FC and Paris St Germain to promote
its “Visit Rwanda” tourism campaign.
But in Kigali,
the rising condos and gleaming buildings have made life harder for ordinary
Rwandans, driving up rents and the cost of living.
Unemployment rose to 16 percent in November, official figures show, and inflation has climbed too. “Officials keep telling us we’ll move, whether we like it or not. I would rather die than leave without proper compensation,” said Jean De Dieu Shikama, whose home faces demolition.