29 January 2013

Rwanda: Should Evicted Gatsata Residents Be Compensated?

The move by Gasabo district to evict over 216 families from flood prone areas of Nyamabuye, Nyamugali and Karuruma cell in Gatsata, a Kigali suburb, has sparked off a debate.

The district has ruled out the possibility of compensation for residents, saying it's for their safety from possible disasters that they are being asked to move since they settled in high risk zone. The district officials also refute allegations that they want the land for development.

Authorities gave the residents until April to relocate.

Apart from needy people who will be sheltered through the Gasabo district budget, the rest are supposed to take care of their relocation to a place of their own choice.

"We don't need to expropriate them since it is for their good to leave the place now. They are living in danger zone," Jean Claude Munara, the Gasabo's vice mayor in charge of economic affairs said last week.

"We have warned them since last year. Now it's their time to heed advice, otherwise the district has got no budget to compensate people who settled in wetlands and slopes identified as high risk zones. It's in their interests to escape disaster," he said.

The Minister of Local Government James Musoni, also ruled out compensation for the affected residents, saying the eviction was for their own good.

"The ministry is encouraging them to move to a place of their choice and build new houses on their own without expecting any support, except the vulnerable who will get support from the government as usual," he said.

According to minister Musoni, so far, over 10,000 people have moved from high risk areas countrywide to better locations since June last year.

But MP Desire Nyandwi, the deputy chairman of the Parliamentary Commission of Agriculture, Environment and Livestock argued that those who have been there before the law came into force and have land titles have right to compensation.

Nyandwi referred to the 2005 Law of Environment, according to which the government gives a-two-year grace period to people who live in wetlands and slopes to leave. After this time, the government can use the same law and force them to relocate.

He was echoed by Marie Immaculee Ingabire, chairperson of Transparency Rwanda, who said, the government should find support to help the people who are required to move even if they are living in high risk zones.

"To ask people to move without compensation is like a father who chases his children away. Those people are like our children," she said.

Similar evictions

In other zones identified as high risk, people were forced to leave to safer areas after floods destroyed their crops and properties but local authorities offered some support for people going to start life elsewhere.

This happened in Nyabihu, Rubavu and Musanze districts.

Ezechiel Nsengiyumva Buntu, Rubavu's vice mayor in charge of economic affairs, told The New Times that affected residents at Rubavu slope and Gishwati were moved to designated villages where plots and iron sheets were given to them by government through the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees Affairs.

Angèle, Mukaminani, the Nyabihu's vice mayor in charge of economic affairs, also said scores of residents from Jomba, Muringa, Rugera, Shyira and Rambura sectors who were evicted from flood prone areas were given support in form of iron sheets.

Last week, residents of Gatsata who were issued with eviction notice insisted they would not accept to leave unless they are compensated because they have no means to get new homes.

"We will not fight with the district, but they should understand that living in a high risk zone was not our mistake; we know nothing on risk science," said Claudine Nyirabiganiro, who has lived in Nyamabuye for 20 years.

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