Rwanda: City Authorities Speak Out on Land Expropriation Disputes

Kigali City will this financial year spend Rwf 9 billion in expropriating 2009 families, to pave way for the construction of 10 roads that have a length of 70 kilometres combined.

The construction and expansion of roads, according to Kigali City Engineer, Asaba Katabarwa, has already started and owners of the land that will be affected have either been notified or are in the process of receiving notice letters, although City authorities have already started receiving petitions against expropriation.

Speaking to The New Times, Katabarwa detailed the process of expropriation saying that, before a project is initiated, those, whose land and properties are likely to be affected, are notified of the kind of project that will be undertaken.

“This is followed by a professional valuer coming in to determine the value of these properties according to the formula reserved for the determination of just and equitable compensation,” he said.

Property valuation professionals present their findings to the City of Kigali authorities which also make a double check and write back to the property owner.

The owner has to respond by either accepting the value attached to his property or rejecting the findings. When they accept, what follows is processing the payments. However, in the event the property owner rejects the valuations, the law provides that the property owner hires a professional valuer who comes up with the report, Katabarwa explained.

The process is followed by both the city valuer and the property owner’s valuer comparing notes and when they agree on what the city had assessed, the owner of the property is informed of the decision and when they disagree, still the owner is notified.

When there is a disagreement, the outcome is documented, authorities proceed and transfer the equivalent funds indicated by the valuer to government coffers, and expropriation work commences. The owner of the property is advised to go to court and seek redress.

If the court orders that the valuer’s assessment was right, the money is transferred from government coffers to the property owner and if the court rules against the valuations made by the authority, authorities have to find the money ordered by the court and pass it on to the property owner.

“Contestations against expropriation happen frequently, some people may want to get more money than the actual value of their properties. We expect to encounter such cases whenever there are mass expropriations. That’s why we ensure that everything is done as per the law,” said Katabarwa.

The case of Umulisa

Among the roads that the City has embarked on constructing, there is one that passes through Nyarutarama-Kabuga area. The road will cease some properties and among those affected include one that belongs to Odette Umulisa Kamuhanda.

Umulisa’s case came to the limelight following several YouTube interviews of her complaining that City authorities were illegally expropriating her.

Umulisa says that the City of Kigali wrongfully channelled a road through her plot and that city authorities have not given her appropriate compensation worth her properties that are affected by the road.

The expropriation law states that when a person is going to be displaced by an act of public interest, they must be given a fair pay based on the value calculated. Such public interest infrastructure projects are approved by the City council.

Umulisa’s plot, that will be affected by road construction, is located in Gacuriro cell, Kinyinya sector, Gasabo district, and has an area of 1,057 square meters and UPI 1/02/10/01/203.

According to her, she purchased the land back in 2005, from one Charles Munyaneza, and it’s only recently that she realised the size of the land she bought is not equivalent to the one registered on the Unique Parcel Identifier (UPI) at the land centre.

She claims that what is registered is smaller than what she acquired and that this is why she delayed the transfer of ownership from Munyaneza to her names.

Umulisa says has no dispute with Munyaneza, instead, she believes someone else wrongfully acquired part of her land without her consent and appeals to authorities to rectify it before she transfers the land to her name.

However, Katabarwa told The New Times that city authorities can only base on UPI in the system.

“When we embarked on the road construction, we engaged Munyaneza whom the land is registered on, so that we inform him that part of it will be taken away but he informed us that he sold it to Umulisa.

“It is then that we started engaging Umulisa. We got to an extent of requesting that we facilitate the transfer of ownership but she was uncooperative. We had to apply what the law instructs us to do,” said Katabarwa.

On May 23, 2022, the City of Kigali wrote to Munyaneza informing him that he is the owner of the property based on information provided by the National Land Centre.

In that letter, Munyaneza was asked to submit documents to the City of Kigali in order to receive compensation in the event of expropriation.

A follow-up letter dated June 3, from the City of Kigali addressed to Munyaneza and Umulisa, informed them (Munyaneza and Umulisa) that in the event there is no transfer of ownership, the appropriate compensation will be returned to the State coffers and allow the road project to proceed.

Property Valuation

The New Times acquired details of the property valuation report which indicated the total size of the land is 1,057 square meters. Of that, the part that will be affected by the road construction is 423 square meters.

“The remaining land size is 634 square meters and it is still above the required plot size in Kigali which is 600 square meters. Had we taken a big part of the land, then compensation would have been computed to cover the whole of it but what we are paying for is for the taken land and structures,” said Katabarwa.

Umulisa had started constructing an estate in the contested plot although it was still in the early phase, and the valuation considered the structure that has been demolished.

As per the valuation, the land value was placed at Rwf 21,436,794 while the structure that was being constructed has been valued at Rwf 62,878,390.12.

The value of the crops in the affected land stands at Rwf 53,800 while compensation for disruptions caused by expropriation which the law says should be 5% was calculated to be Rwf 4,218,449.21

Overall, the compensation that City authorities offered Umulisa is Rwf 88,587,433 however Umulisa claims her land only is worth Rwf 200 million.

Katabarwa said, “The law clearly states that in the event of disputes, activities of public interest must continue while the contesting parties seek legal means of settlement. This is why the road construction has to continue and we continue to address Umulisa’s concerns.”

He noted that Umulisa has refused the compensation, refused to transfer ownership to her name, and has left City authorities with no choice but to apply the law and proceed with serving public interests.

Currently, demolition of the structure is underway to pave way for the road construction that should be complete by May next year as per the plan.

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