Rwanda: Govt to Take Over Ownership of Unregistered Land

17 October 2019

Some 1.5 million parcels of land across the country could be registered as state property if their owners do not register them within the next three months, the Government has warned.

"Some of these properties might be in the hands of people we do not know or they might be even lying idle because the owners never registered them as their properties," Grace Nishimwe, the Head of Land Administration Department at Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority, told The New Times.

The current land registration arrangement, which was introduced more than 10 years ago, has significantly reduced land related conflicts in the country, especially in rural areas, government says.

The current laws give women and men equal rights to land property.

"This initiative aims at streamlining land use. Eventually, the Government will take over idle land or land which does not have owners," she disclosed.

However, although the state will assume ownership of unregistered land after three months, the rightful owners can still reposes their property after presenting evidence of ownership, Nishimwe said.

The law allows the Government to take possession of unregistered land.

The owners of the "disputed" properties have been requested to go to the land notary at sector level and sort out the issues.

The government says it does not know why some people are reluctant to register their properties.

Disputes

Nishimwe said that "owners" of land registered as property in conflict must submit documents to the land management authority to prove that the matter is in court.

"There are over 18,000 land parcels we registered that are the subject of conflict. Those fighting for ownership must give us documents within one month proving that they have taken the case to courts," she said.

After the one-month ultimatum, those who will have not acted accordingly, the land management authority will delete 'conflict' status in the land titles registry.

Experts say that streamlined land registration will boost state revenues from property tax.

Esperance Mukamana, the Director General of Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority, said that land registration is now harmonised with tax collection systems.

With an ICT-based system linking land registration and tax payment, Ernest Karasira, the Deputy Commissioner for Regional and Decentralised Taxes at Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA), said revenue administration costs on land property will be reduced.

With the system RRA expects regional and decentralised taxes to rise to over Rwf67 billion this fiscal year from up from Rwf61.5 billion in the 2017/18 last fiscal year.

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