RE: “We should support Kigali’s ambitious housing projects” (The New Times, September 14).
I fully support development projects and everyone should support them as rightly put by Seth. However, my opinion is that we need to rethink slum approach in Kigali.
According to UN-Habitat, the key five slum deprivations are lack of safe water, access to sanitation, durability of housing, overcrowding, and security of tenure. I think that the path to achieving these benefits for slum dwellers is the real issue and the major challenge.
I would go for the slum upgrading approach instead of slum eradication approach.
Eradicating slums involves evictions and the process may not be transparent that a lot of corruption practices can slide in. For instance, allocating the said houses to the wrong beneficiaries.
Secondly, expropriation process is lengthy and is fraught usually with a lot of discontentment from the affected people, not to mention that it’s a painful two-fold process – expropriating the land to build fresh houses, and compensating the dwellers.
Thirdly, the resulting cost is usually too high for interested investors leading to idle land and the government unable to recoup back its cost. However, slum upgrading that focuses on safe water, sanitation, durable houses, and land titles is what is more sustainable, cheaper and likely to get the most buy-in from the dwellers in the long run.
Note that, for slums in high risk slopes in Kigali, they are obviously not a candidate for slum upgrading and those need to move. Kenya has an ambitious and monumentous slum upgrading programme of one of the world’s largest slums, Kibera, which houses a population of 2.5 million and would provide good lessons to learn from.
If slum upgrading approach is adopted, principles of community-led initiatives, national budget allocations, basic rights of slum dwellers, and results based should be some key guiding principles.