16 January 2013

Rwanda: Land-Related Cases Challenge Gasabo

Gasabo district has come under scrutiny over land related cases in which the government has lost large sums of money.

According to the Auditor General's report of the last fiscal year, Gasabo incurred wasteful expenditure totalling about Rfw99 million

The report, among others, says Kigali City paid Dr. Jean Baptiste Rwasine Rwf43, 383, 472, on June 10, 2011, as compensation for his land in Kimironko sector.

The property was let out to Mixed Farmers S.a.r.l in 1995, by the Ministry of Agriculture, for a period of five years. When the tenancy agreement expired in 2000, the ministry did not renew the tenancy agreement, and in 2003, the company sold the land to Fair Construction for Rwf40 million. Following this sale, City of Kigali issued a lease agreement dated October 28, 2003 to Fair Construction. According to the AG in a letter written on February 17, 2009 and addressed to the Mayor of Gasabo district, the original owner of the property - Dr. Rwasine - claimed ownership of the property.

That is when City of Kigali was forced to part with Rwf43, 383, 472 as compensation to the owner "as the title in favor of Fair Construction could not be revoked" since it had been formally issued by City of Kigali, a competent authority "as per the opinion" of the Auditor General.

Rwf2, 983,472 relating to the value of properties demolished, excluding land, was claimed from Mixed Farmers.

In another case, Rwf30,444,416 was paid to ADPR Church in similar circumstances.

ADPR was issued a building permit to construct a church in Gatsata but in 2004, City of Kigali demolished the half finished church.

It is noted that while demolition was done in 2004, valuation works for compensation purposes were done five years later, on October 19, 2009. The evaluation established Rwf30,444,416 as the amount of compensation to ADPR compared to the Rwf95,463,800 that the church had earlier claimed.

The Auditor General says that this expenditure would have been avoided had the City of Kigali exercised due diligence care in issuing the building permit that would later be revoked, especially since the area in question was a marsh or wetland.

Refusing arbitration

In other cases, Kigali City lost another court battle which cost them Rwf11, 900,000.

According to the report, claimants file cases and decline the possibility of mediation or arbitration which would avoid wasteful expenditures.

"They know that when you win a case against the government you receive a good package," said Kigali City Mayor Fidele Ndayisaba.

The AG notes that still in Gasabo, most of the cases reported to court are related to misappropriation of land titles which happened some years ago.

But district mayor, Willy Ndizeye, says most of the cases they have been accused of happened at the time the Ministry of Infrastructure was managing land.

He is echoed by his Nyarugenge counterpart, Solange Mukasonga, who said they are forced to get involved in complicated cases which they did not handle from the beginning.

"The mistakes committed that time are still haunting the districts today," she told The New Times.

Ndizeye, however, said the district managed to save around Rwf 40,000,000 last year in a land related case.

The wasteful expenditure is linked to the leaders' lack of awareness of the law or sheer irresponsibility.

"Some leaders see such cases coming and but do nothing to prevent them because they know they will not be liable, while others ignore legal procedures," Athanase Rutabingwa, the president of Rwanda Bar Association told The New Times.

In order to avoid losses, the assistant deputy attorney general, Alphonse Sebazungu, recently called upon mayors to always seek guidance from their legal officers. He cited Kicukiro district which is said to have a clean report.

"It looks like they only seek their help when the problem is already too big to contain, this should be avoided," he advised.

He also called for great caution in land title issuance, since misappropriation is a growing issue where, out of negligence, a plot can be attributed to more than 1 person.

Additional reporting by James Karuhanga

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