18 January 2013

Rwanda: Legislators Discuss Land Bill

Lawmakers yesterday agreed to a countrywide awareness campaign to change the mindset of Rwandans who think they will all own land yet it is impossible.

'We have a serious concern. This bill must be reviewed here and then in the Senate and that is why it was given a top priority' - Joseph Désiré Nyandwi

The consensus was reached as the Chamber of Deputies' standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Environment yesterday started a rare special committee session to fast track the draft law relating to land use and development planning in Rwanda.

Minister of Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi tabled the bill before parliament last month. Once passed, it will repeal the 2005 land use law.

The debate in parliament comes after the committee concluded two separate country tours to examine issues related to land use. One was conducted in Kayonza and Kirehe districts, in September last year, and the second, last week, in Rubavu and Musanze districts.

Eng. Didier Sagashya, the Deputy Director General of the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA), told the session that: "In line with vision 2020, government plans to reduce the number of Rwandans depending on agriculture for their livelihood, by at least 30 percent. The plan is to reduce this percentage from the current 80 percent to 50 percent."

Eng. Sagashya added: "To achieve this, there are two things that we must do. One is that we review the manner of land use. Another thing that we must pay attention to is that we must put in place a way of creating jobs."

According to Sagashya, activities to increase TVET schools and other schools are being championed, to help Rwandans understand that they do not only have to depend on land. "A critical aspect that we must all work together on, is helping change the mindset that we must all own land," he said.

With a fixed surface area of 26,338 square kilometers, Rwanda remains the most densely populated country in Africa, with a population currently estimated at over 10 million and growing. Rwanda's large population heavily bears down on scarce resources, including health services.

MP Joseph Désiré Nyandwi, the Deputy Chairperson of the Committee urged members of the civil society and government officials present to ensure that they participate in the entire debate on the bill which is being given "top priority."

Nyandwi stressed the seriousness of the task at hand by rejecting Eng. Sagashya's request to postpone Friday's sitting so that he could follow President Paul Kagame's ongoing Western Province tour. He explained that the bill must be passed by June 6.

Eng. Sagashya, told The New Times that the reasons for the review of the 2005 law include the need to conform to a constitutional amendment that states that only organic land laws are recognized, "yet the 2005 law is not among those."

Another reason is that there were issues encountered in the implementation of the 2005 law, he explained, giving the example of land ownership in imidugudu or village settlements not as administrative entities but as group settlements.

Eng. Sagashya said: "In the old law, those lands belong to districts but they should belong to people in the midugudu."

According to Eng. Sagashya, the review is also about the institutional framework concerning streamlining with the changes in the last seven years starting with what was implemented. The review will also look into issues of doing business as well as foreign investors' use and ownership of land as government moves to ensure increased productivity of land in the country.

While the 2005 law has 89 articles, the current bill has 67 articles. Eng. Sagashya said that some were "revised and combined depending on the desired intention, but all principles in the old law were kept intact."

Among others, the new legislation aims to ensure the transparent co-ordination, supervision and enforcement of national land use and development planning at all levels of government in Rwanda towards sustainable and equitable social, economic and environment development for current and future generations.

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