Several traders in downtown Kigali were forced to close business on Wednesday, after the central sewerage system of their building broke down, releasing sewage into their work space.
The building, behind the former post office, hosts several traders and COOTRAC, a cooperative with 22 members dealing in handicrafts. The cooperative operates in the basement of the complex.
The traders blame the owner, Joseph Mugenga, for not telling them that the basement sits on a septic tank.
“It was a matter of time before this could burst and it finally happened. Our merchandise is lost and we have not worked the entire day because of the stench,” Clementine Kabagwara, one of the members of COOTRAC told The New Times.
But Mugenga rejected the claims, saying that he had informed the cooperative prior to signing the rent agreement that the building’s central sewer was just below the basement.
“I am an investor and do things professionally. The COOTRAC group approached me and asked me if they could rent the basement. I accepted, only after informing them about the building’s sewerage system but I had initially planned to use the space as a car park,” Mugenga told The New Times.
The New Times learnt that prior to the leakage incidence, city and environment authorities had inspected the space and found it unfit to operate as a work station.
Mugenga acknowledged that he accepted the authorities’ directives and issued an eviction notice to the cooperative, but they did not heed.
However, according to Kabagwara and several other members of the cooperative, they could not vacate the premises before being refunded a year’s rent, worth Rwf17 million, they had paid.
“We will not leave until he repays our money,” Kabagarwa said.
The Regional Police Commander, Kigali, Rogers Rutikanga, who on Wednesday arbitrated between the two parties, urged them to agree on the terms of repayment.
“One thing is for sure; the place where they work is not fit, lacks aeration and is located just above the septic tank. I talked to Mugenga and we agreed on that issue. On the issue of repayment, they will have to come to a mutual agreement or sort it from the courts of law,” Rutikanga said.