Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

31 March 2013

Rwanda: Ignorance of Road Act Leads to Construction Confusion

In the recent past, some people living close to certain roads have had the nasty surprise of being expropriated without com­pensation. This is due to the Road Act, which came into force in 2012 and classifies roads in different cat­egories which entail different con­ditions for construction in their vi­cinity.

Yet Alexis Nzahabwanimana, the State Minister in charge of Trans­port, admits that the law is still not well known by the general public. Even local officials in charge of is­suing construction permits are of­ten ignorant of the regulation.

According to law, roads are di­vided into the following categories: international roads that link Rwan­da with neighboring countries; roads that link districts and the city of Kigali; and those that link areas of tourist significance and facilities of national or international impor­tance such as ports and airports.

"There are also roads in districts, the city of Kigali and other urban areas that fall into category 1. These are the ones that link headquarters within the same district or those roads that are used within the same sector. The ones in category 2 are arterial roads that connect district roads to rural community centers that are inhabited as an agglomera­tion," Nzahabwanimana clarified.

National roads are managed by the Rwanda Transport Develop­ment Authority (RTDA), while the others are the responsibility of districts and the city of Kigali. So-called 'specific roads' (those spe­cifically constructed to connect national roads or District roads to Kigali City and other urban areas to the centers for private sector's ac­tivities such as agricultural produc­tion, natural resources processing or to tourist sites) shall be under the jurisdiction of those who are in charge of their management.

Road reserve:

According to the director of plan­ning at RTDA, Eric Ntagengerwa, the width of national roads, dis­tricts and City of Kigali roads and those in other urban areas (category 1) should be at least 3.5 meters, not including drainage ditches and em­bankments. Roadways in districts and City of Kigali roads and other urban areas (class 2) should be at least 6 meters wide. In suburbs and at the entrances of towns, grouped settlements and agglomeration, the width of a road may be increased when it is deemed necessary.

In addition to such width, each road must have sufficient space for drainage ditches, embankments, dumps and sidewalks, all integral parts of the road.

All of this has repercussions on construction. For instance, article 22 of the road act stipulates that the road reserve for Class 1 roads shall be demarcated by two parallel lines at 22 meters on both sides of the road from the median line while for Class 2 it is 12 meters.

In these road reserves, no con­struction is allowed nor installation of equipment for telecommunica­tion, transportation of persons and goods or power distribution. Facili­ties designed for the distribution of fuel and related products as well as kiosks attached to such facilities may be erected near road passage where they do not exist but not near other distribution facilities in order to ease traffic.

Expropriation:

Article 33 of the Road act stipu­lates that if the construction, mod­ification, or widening of a Class 1 road requires the expropriation of a built-up or bare land, it shall be car­ried out in accordance with the law relating to the expropriation in the public interest.

"This is what had happened on the Kigali-Rubavu road, where peo­ple had settled in the road reserve provided in the then applicable law of 1987; when we rehabilitated the road, the affected people wanted to be compensated but that didn't ap­ply to some of them because they had violated the law," Nzahabwan­imana says, adding that this shows that the road act is still insufficient­ly known. "Even some local leaders offer construction permits careless­ly without taking into account what kind of road it is and how wide its reserve is supposed to be."

Yet he stressed that such igno­rance will not be condoned. "The law is very clear: if a property is within less than 22m from a nation­al road, the owner will remove it himself or the authorities will do it at the owner's cost."

However, some citizens, espe­cially in Musanze and Rubavu on the Kigali-Rubavu highway, argue that the compensation is subject to unfairness and delays. "We were given permits by local authorities," complains one of them.

Nzahabwanimana however counters that there is a lot of cheat­ing by people seeking compensa­tion they are not entitled to by law. "Any local leader who gives a con­struction permit without taking into account the law shall be held responsible. People eligible for compensation are those who had activities at least 15 meters from a highway (as the old law stipulated, ed.), and within 22 meters before the new Road Act, which was ga­zetted in January last year."

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