13 September 2017

Rwanda: Kigali's Largest Unplanned Settlement Set for Facelift

Rural-urban migration is a common phenomenon in all developing countries and the increasing numbers of people moving towards urban areas causes several things, including hundreds of underprivileged people living in cramped spaces without adequate sanitation, to happen.

Besides the need to stick to the land use plan of the City of Kigali, awful conditions relating to public health, especially provision of clean drinking water and adequate sewage disposal oblige authorities to push for solutions and, as such, in the near future, Kigali's biggest slum - in the Kangondo I and Kangondo II zones of Nyarutarama - will be a story of the past.

According to city businessman Denis Karera, a new project - the Savannah Creek project - will soon undertake the process to redevelop the shanty quarter, populary known as 'Bannyahe' for its lack of proper sewerage system.

"Our project is called the Savannah Creek project and it is being done by the Savannah Creek Development Company. Our aim is to develop the Kangondo I and Kangondo II slum area, the largest slum in Rwanda, into a grade A [high-end] area of the city," said Karera.

"The slum is there by mistake. We are working with government to develop the area; transform it into a modern high-end suburb."

As The New Times observed, all dwellings in the area are not well planned.

The crowded houses lack basic necessities such as clean water, proper sanitation, and planned structures.

"The project for relocation will be done through 2018 and, in early 2019, we start developing a new city estate."

According to Karera, in the three-year project, meant to last about three years, they plan to - in early 2019 - start building 520 housing units that include stand-alone bungalows and apartments.

They will be houses that upper middle class and middle class can afford, he said. Asked about projected costs per unit house in the proposed city estate, Karera said it would be "a bit too early to discuss numbers" as they have to mind competition in the market.

Detailed information - including size, cost and purchase modalities - on the forthcoming high-end city housing project will be disclosed in the near future, he said.

But before they start construction, current residents must be relocated.

"We asked government to relocate the people and government has given us land in Busanza, Kanombe, where to relocate them," Karera said, adding that they got about 27 hectares of land in a zone demarcated for low cost housing.

In Busanza, they plan to build better houses for 780 families. Beneficiary families, not individuals, he said, are already registered and known at their respective sectors. And they will not buy the houses but receive a new house, each, in exchange for what they now have in Kangondo.

Positive impact

Karera says their new housing project will solve the problem of having a squalid and overcrowded urban settlement in the area; create new housing in Nyarutarama and jobs in addition to allowing current area residents to own bigger and better houses in Busanza and enjoy improved social welfare.

In Busanza, Karera said, they will also see to it that basic public amenities such as a dispensary, mini market and vocational training centre, are established to make life more pleasant for the people residing there.

Artistic impressions of the newly planned settlement in Busanza show impressive designs of modern flats with outdoor sporting and leisure facilities, children's play areas and open space and ample green spaces.

However, present-day tenants inside what is considered to be the country's biggest unplanned urban settlement have mixed feelings about the development.

In Kangondo II, Ruth Nyirahabimana, a young mother who was carrying a seven-month old baby on her back when The New Times visited the area on Tuesday, said she rents a tiny, one-room house. She said her family is yet to decide exactly what to do once the relocation plan is set in motion.

"We are actually worried. We are renting and own nothing here. Once the time comes and we are asked to clear out it will really be tough on us as my husband is a casual labourer who doesn't earn much," She said.

Sarah Nyiranzabonimpa, an elderly lady who looked on suspiciously as The New Times' team talked to folks in the area and took pictures, also appeared apprehensive even though she claimed to welcome the idea of the place being overhauled to do away with the "undesirable" nickname Byannyahe.

"Nobody here likes this name and we would all love to see it disappear. Byannyahe became our tag after the place became too crowded and finding a toilet was an issue... people would do it anywhere."

Nyiranzabonimpa, an area resident since 2008, says talk about plans to redevelop the area is welcome but she, too is worried. She said: "My question is, however much this is welcome since it is about progress and development, what will happen to the very poor amongst us?"

Property owners not informed

Jean Marie Vianney Ntaganzwa, a father of two who owns a house and earns Rwf100, 000, monthly, from tenants who let four tiny next-door rooms, said they are not well informed about the relocation project.

When The New Times told him about the Busanza project, Ntaganzwa was not sure whether to be thrilled about it, or apprehensive.

But he noted that he heard there was a schedule at the Sector where officials would inform landlords about what is being mulled.

"I don't have information about this. But look, if you go to a new and better house (in Busanza), it goes with a higher standard of living and I don't know if I will manage there. My thinking is that if, for example, my property is valued at Rwf20 million and the new house there costs Rwf16 million I should be given the extra Rwf4 million to help me with my other family needs."

"Here I have extra earnings that I will not get in the new house. We have little information. This thing is still shrouded about the process in secrecy. All we do is wait and see what will happen."

Ntaganzwa said that three years ago when he sought a bank loan his property was then valued at Rwf20 million.

At the Kimihurura Cell offices next to the slum, Xavier Bigirumwami, the officer in charge of socio- economic development told The New Times that most property owners in the slum do not reside there and this could partly explain why few know much about the project.

Bigirumwami said: "But again, informing these people about the plan for relocation is a process. It is being handled at district level and I am sure district officials also want to first gather all the necessary information."

"What is clear is that this is a very difficult place to live in if you consider the very poor sanitation around."

Among other negatives is an unbearable stench within the slum but residents seem used to it and move about their daily activities as if unaffected.

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