As land re-distribution kicks off in Eastern Province
RWEMPASHA - President Paul Kagame has urged new beneficiaries of land to put it to good use for better productivity. He said this yesterday while launching the exercise of land re-distribution in the Eastern Province, a move that followed the establishment of a commission to check those people who had very big chunks of land at the expense of others who have been landless in the province. Speaking to a big and enthusiastic audience at Rwempasha Sector in Nyagatare District, Kagame told the new land owners that it was not enough to feel they got the plots because they were entitled to them anyway.
He emphasized they must carry out appropriate economic activities on that land.
The first three farms to be re-dedivided belonged to Senator Dr Joseph Karemera, Director of Cabinet Maj. Gen. Frank Mugambage, and Rwanda’s Ambassador to India Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa.
Kagame thanked the people who responded positively to the initiative and gave out part of their land to those who did not have at all.
According to the new land policy no one will be allowed to possess more than 25 hectares of land.
A total of 25 people, formerly landless, instantly became land owners as a result of the first three re-divided farms. Five people benefited from the surplus on Dr Karemera’s farm, seven from Maj. Gen. Mugambage’s, whereas 13 more became proud land owners, thanks to Ambassador Kayumba’s farm. Each of the beneficiaries got 5 hectares.
The President said the fact that people whose land has been redistributed are leaders, sets a good example which others will be compelled to follow. He said the activity is part of the effort to tackle the challenge of insufficient land which the whole country faces.
Kagame said Rwandans should remember how difficult it is to acquire land in the sizes they need, or even get any at all. Therefore, he made an appeal; there is need on the part of those who have to share with those that do not have.
The people who got land were provided with temporary land titles which they will keep for a year before they get permanent ones. According to the State Minister in charge of Lands and Environment, Patricia Hajabakiga, during this period, various issues will be assessed before permanent land titles are availed to owners.
She explained in an interview on the sidelines that it is during the assessment period that in case any one will have illegally acquired more than the one plot they are entitled to, they will be identified and corrective measures taken.
However, the President gave assurance that no one should fear they do not fully own their land already, simply because they possess only temporary titles.
However, he reminded them that with the temporary titles, they will neither have the right to sell, nor give away part or whole of their pieces of land. He said any transactions will have to wait till owners get permanent titles.
Meanwhile, Hajabakiga said that the main reason most people had big chunks of land was the law that was in force by the time they acquired it. Previously, the law allowed people to acquire up to 50 hectares, but this has since been amended. The biggest owners can now only have to themselves 25 hectares each and not more.
However, according to the minister, some people did not even follow the old law and so they acquired more than they were entitled to…this is the land that is now being given away to those who have been less privileged.
In an interview, Dr Karemera said that this was one of the ways to eradicate poverty in the country. He said it did not matter much now how land was gotten those days; he said what is of utmost importance is that the issue has been properly addressed to the satisfaction of the giver and the receiver.
He appreciates the fact the country is small, saying it is the realistic means to sustainable development. One of the beneficiaries, Sylvia Kantengwa, said that she was happy to finally get land after her repatriation from Tanzania over two years ago. She said that she was now happy to be with grazing land. Lack of it had led to her losing most of her cows.
There were three categories of people who had priority to benefit from the re-demarcation, according to Eastern Province Governor, Theoneste Mutsindashyaka.
They are returnees from Tanzania and those who fell within the parameters of both the Akagera National Park and the Gabiro School of Infantry.
The land redistribution process in the eastern province was initiated in July last year by a taskforce which was comprised of senior officers from both the RDF and National Police, together with officials from the Ministry of Lands, Environment, Forests, Water and Mines. The districts affected are Nyagatare, Gatsibo, Kayonza and Kirehe.