2 February 2013

Rwanda: Former U.S. Embassy Building Open for Devt

Kigali City has issued an eviction notice to business owners operating in the premises that used to host the US embassy, located in downtown Kigali.

The eviction from the building, which is now owned by Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB), is aimed at paving way for the implementation of the Kigali City Master Plan.

According to different letters, copies of which The New Times has obtained, the City held various meetings with RSSB officials over setting up a structure that conforms to the master plan, mainly because the premise falls in the central business district, which is supposed to have multiple storied commercial complexes.

On different occasions since September 2011, the City wrote to the RSSB requesting development proposal and to evict the businesses operating in the building to pave away for the redevelopment of the plot.

Due to lack of response from RSSB, the City has asked business operators in the building to vacate. At least two companies are affected, though the tenants remain indifferent.

"We are not concerned because we are tenants. We submitted to RSSB the letter that Kigali City wrote asking us to vacate," said a tenant, who asked not to be identified.

The City, in a January 15 letter, asked RSSB to relocate the businesses in the house with immediate effect and to start redeveloping the plot.

But Bruno Rangira, the director of communication in the City of Kigali, said new tenants have been coming in and that there are illegal renovations of the building.

Following the City's notice, Regis Munyentwali, the head of inspection at KCC, closed the building onTuesday, barring any new tenant and requested a pharmacy there to relocate.

According to Moses Kazoora, the director of Public Relations at RSSB, the plot, which is regarded as prime, is on sale. He said the tenants know that they have a short term contract.

"They (the tenants) know that the day we get a developer with a plan that conforms to the Kigali master plan, they will vacate," he said.

Kazoora said the decision to close the businesses in the building may have been triggered by illegal rehabilitation, adding, however, that they are discussing with the city on the fate of the tenants.

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