13 May 2013

Rwanda: Govt Postpones High Risk Zones Evictions

Government has postponed, until September, the eviction of residents living in areas regarded as prone to disasters. The initial ultimatum passed on April 30.

Augustin Kampayana , the chairperson of Rural Settlement taskforce in the Ministry of Local Government, told The New Times last week that the eviction deadline was postponed to allow government to secure resettlement areas for all the affected households before eviction.

"Only about 40,000 out of the 80,000 households meant to be evicted countrywide from high risk zones have already got places where they can resettle," he said.

According to Kampayana, the exercise of identifying households in risky zone started last year by a team that included local leaders, police and the military under the supervision of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs.

The team visited village by village and enumerated visibly disaster-prone households.

Prime Minister's team:

Another team was put in place by the Prime Minister last month, after a meeting with concerned ministries and local authorities on the best approach to ensure the eviction from risk zone is effective.

"The teams are looking at the needs of every person to be evicted, so that they can be supported, as opposed to the past when people were told to do their best and find alternative resettlement. So, on the list, some were found in need of a fully constructed house, others need only iron sheets while others needed only transport to the new settlement," Kampayana added.

For emergency relocation, it was decided that the local leaders will rent a house for the evictees until theirs - in a designated village settlement- umudugudu (communal settlement) is available.

Kampayana said the eviction will cost the government 30 per cent of the yet to be finalised budget, while the 70 per cent of the activities regarding construction will be provided by residents through community works (Umuganda).

An insight into high risk zones:

The areas regarded as high risk zones include households in steep slopes, in swamp areas, or other adjacent land which can be affected by the nearest risky zones but the pending eviction of residents in these areas has sparked concerns, rather than excitement.

Residents of Muvumba cell, Nyabinoni Sector in Muhanga District believe that they are safe although they live in steep slopes adjacent to Nyabarongo River.

According to Executive secretary of the cell, Muhanga district Isidore Nzeyimana, the eviction task force assessed the area and concluded that residents are prone to landslides and floods from Nyabarongo River. Consequently, all the 724 households of the cell will move to the nearest Muyebe cell in Rongi Sector. At least 100 of them should have been evicted already because their homesteads are most exposed.

Other residents of Muvumba said they are not against eviction from the risk zone, but they say the area of relocation Rongi is a two hour walk which would not facilitate them to go back for farming activities.

They say those in the hilly side can come down in the valley and acquire plots from their neighbours in exchange of the hilly land which would serve for agriculture purposes. Authorities in Muhanga, the district with the most households living in risky zones in the country (10,000 households), insist that the residents are exposed and the nearest relocation area is Rongi.

Muhanga District mayor Yvone Mutakwasuku said six classrooms of Kibingo Primary School were last year destroyed when disaster struck. Fortunately, it was night and no human loss was registered.

According to Mutakwasuku, expropriation of Rongi citizens where Muvumba households will relocate to is being supported by Rwanda Housing Authority and the Ministry of Local Government which contributed Rwf86 million and Rwf 100million, respectively. Every household will get a plot of 50 by 50 metres.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture is conducting a study to establish what the land in Muvumba will be designated for.

Mutakwasuku says the land could be allocated to coffee/tea farmers. Disasters claimed 97 lives in one year, according to recent Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees affairs statistics. In the same period, 5468 houses were either damaged or demolished, while 3048.1 hectares of land, including crops were destroyed.

Heavy rains and winds, land slides, floods, and thunderstorms and lightning are at the main causes of these calamities.

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