“….The slum areas are largely occupied by low and irregular income earners and are neither health, safe, and do not even have access to basic infrastructure and utilities. These projects focus on an initiative by the city to provide alternative and safe housing for inhabitants of such slums; to give them basic an opportunity to enjoy their basic rights to basic infrastructure and public utilities,” says The Kigali City Conceptual Master Plan.
Kigali Master Plan is a comprehensive long-term plan that any city in the world, would love to have. It details well the process to be followed, then gives challenges and the way forward.
The project indeed is a long-term one expected to last from 50-100 years. An urban renewal is an immense project that cuts across so many things. There are mountains and huddles to over come to implement the project.
It would be therefore, great self-deception to imagine that it would be done over night. Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, actually covers an area of 375 square kilometres.
Most of it is unfortunately made up of slums and is generally characterized by poor planning. The nature of the terrain (hilly) compounds it all to create a big mess. The project therefore is set to make a change.
I however, identify two outstanding issues as far as achieving the objectives set by the project is concerned.
One, the project is not fully conforming to the concept of offering an alternative settlement, to people who will be displaced as the project spreads its tentacles across the city.
Why am saying this? Kigali Master Plan (project) is set to give alternative accommodation to people whose income levels are low and irregular.
Nevertheless, it forgets the other part of the population, whose income cannot be determined by any scientific measurements.
There are poor city dwellers that cannot be classified as low-income earners or otherwise-they just found themselves in the city.
They are the people that are not sure of their next meals, and yet they want to live live others, under a shelter of any kind.
They do not know what a slum is- like people with mentaldisabilities they cherish their environment, however ugly it may look to a middle-income earner.
You know it philosophically wrong to assume that a person with mental disabilities is unhappy with his or her environment. When you want to take him to a doctor/psychiatrist (in a different environment), you need to take all the necessary precautions, otherwise, you may be hurt in the process or hurt the mad one.
This is where implementing the Master Plan project, is finding it rough with complaints all over from people who were told to re-locate. It does not necessarily mean that they are not foretold, they simply do not want to have their environment changed suddenly.
Furthermore, the alternative housing offered to the low-income earners, might not necessarily be affordable by the category we mentioned hence creating confusion.
On this particular point therefore, and as stipulated in the Master Plan project, let there be proper arrangement to offer an alternative settlement to all categories of displaced people.
Look at the so-called Batsinda low cost Estate, set as an alternative settlement for former town dwellers. Reality on the ground has it that not all displaced people can afford either to rent or buy the type of accommodation.
As we talk about alternative housing, we must conceptualize the economic differences within our society or our people.
Second, the authorities concerned must sensitize people before they are re-located to other areas, on the importance of creating a modern city. A document like the one I have before me, as I write this article today, must be simplified for the ordinary man to internalize.
I am sure and certain that if the population is told about the benefits accrued (employment, etc) in developing a modern city, we would not be having people rebelling against the project.
This is a point well put in the document. “….What is needed in order to implement the Master Plan, is full cooperation and participation of the residents in regards to fighting haphazard construction,” the document says in part.
In fact, there must be full sensitization of residents as a prerequisite to full cooperation and participation in the project.