Residents of Kigali slums accuse the authorities of razing their houses without paying them the promised compensation, arousing anger in the context of a vast modernization of the Rwandan capital.
In December, in Nyarutarama, a neighborhood hosting the largest slums in Kigali and bordering very affluent areas, the first houses began to be razed in accordance with the plans of the town hall, causing resistance from residents.
« My life suddenly deteriorated, » said Emmanuel Bayahore, whose home was destroyed on December 20. « I will try to bring this matter to all the offices concerned and to court if possible, because it is an injustice. »
In 2017, in anticipation of the destruction, the authorities assessed Emmanuel Bayahore’s house at 28 million Rwandan francs (about 26,000 euros).
« I agreed to move if they paid the amount but now they say they are not going to give me anything at all, because my house was on a swamp and no one is allowed to build on a swamp », regrets there.
The government finally gave him 30,000 Rwandan francs (28 euros) to find a rental for him, his wife and three children in another area of Kigali, but this amount, he says, is not enough to house the whole family. family.
The authorities justify the evictions by the fact that many houses are located on swamps or on land likely to experience landslides or floods.
“The city has informed these people that the law does not allow them to live in swampy areas. They have received letters and notices, but nothing has been done, « the city of Kigali said in a statement on December 17.
« This is all the more important due to the heavy rains and floods, which could cause deaths, » also said the town hall, in a context where East Africa experienced torrential rains at the end of the year. ‘year.
But many of the poorest in Kigali do not feel welcome in this city, which has become a showcase in Africa, praised for the safety and cleanliness of its streets.
The capital is undergoing a profound metamorphosis within the framework of “Vision 2050”, President Paul Kagame’s program to give Rwanda access to the status of a rich country. According to the World Bank, the share of the Rwandan population living below the poverty line is just below 40%, a figure stable since 2014.
In recent years, 5-star hotels, a conference center estimated at 270 million euros, or special economic zones have opened their doors. A new 1.15 billion euro airport is under construction.
But the brand-new buildings and the growing number of homes, driving up property prices, have made life harder for many ordinary Rwandans, millions of people still living in very difficult conditions.
At the same time, the unemployment rate is rising (from 14.5% to 16% between February and November), as is inflation (6.9% in November), according to official data.
Human rights groups have accused the government of parking unwanted people, including beggars, street children and prostitutes, in detention centers outside the city.
They are among the few to criticize the president’s plan, in power since 1994, with slum dwellers who feel excluded from this attractive image of a new Rwanda despite the stated objective of eradicating poverty.
Nyarutarama, where the slums are called “Bannyahe” – which means “where I can defecate” -, is surrounded by some of the most posh streets of Kigali.
“The authorities keep telling us to leave, whether we like it or not. I would rather die than leave without real compensation ”, enrage Jean De Dieu Shikama, whose house is also promised to be destroyed.