While the program of the UN-Habitat on cities' development and slum upgrading requires a mutual understanding between the habitants and the authorities for a convenient solution, some citizens in Kigali complain they are not involved in the decision-making.
The city's masterplan envisions to give it a major upgrade, which means that some neighborhoods are to be replaced entirely because they are not up to the expected standards for the capital of the country.
The targeted areas are mainly those constructed in a chaotic way and often without permission. "We are moving from unplanned settlements to planned ones which are located in better areas in accordance with the Kigali master plan," said Prof. Silas Lwakabamba, the Minister of Infrastructure, during a conference on sustainable urbanization last week.
For his part, Edward Kyazze, the head of housing, urban planning and development in the Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA), indicated also that evacuation is also done for the sake of people's protection.
"We evict people from uninhabitable places and high-risk zones like marshlands and other places with too high a population density," he remarked.
And while the targeted areas consist, by their nature, mainly of low-standard dwellings, the head of housing stresses that the idea is by no means to drive poor people out of the city. "Our vision is an inclusive city development, joining all classes of people," he indicated.
"Urbanization is not an accident, it is a human construct and can only be determined and guided by leadership to deliver and serve its purposes."
He added that this is also why the City Council calls for cooperation between investors and landholders to come up with housing for all levels of income.
Today, Kigali accounts for 48% of the urban areas in the country, and as any big city it counts numerous slums. In order to replace those, Lwakabamba said, Rwanda targets to create secondary cities, which should also offer a solution for the rural-urban migration.
General perception on slums:
The UN-Habitat estimates that over one billion people are currently living in poverty in urban slums, and it is expected that if nothing is done about it another 500 million will be added by 2020.
For Aisha Kirabo Kacyira, the deputy executive director of UN-Habitat and former mayor of Kigali, political will is a prerequisite to achieve sustainable urbanization. "Development has been preceded by urbanization, and urbanization is a driver for socioeconomic transformation. Urbanization is not an accident, it is a human construct and can only be determined and guided by leadership to deliver and serve its purposes," she said.
Hilary Kamela, the director of planning at Lilongwe city council in Malawi, observed that upgrading the slums requires a common understanding between the people and the officials in order to facilitate them to live in the city in a sustainable way. Yet problems pop up when the city officials want to develop their cities and people are not able to abide by the new construction regulations. He remarked that therefore officials need to be realistic when it comes to setting housing standards, in order to protect the interest of all people.
"Upgrading is one thing, but you have to be careful how you are upgrading," he said, indicating that there is a need to consider social housing that is also affordable to lower economic classes.