An association of traders in Nyabugogo is embroiled in a bitter wrangle with Nyarugenge District over ownership of a commercial building located at a bus terminal.
The traders, under their cooperative Twubake Nyabugogo, are threatening to drag the district to court to seek legal redress.
They claim that 86 businessmen raised Rwf180 million to construct the building on the district land in 1997, which the district wants to grab.
In an agreement signed in 1998, the parties agreed that each tenant would pay monthly district dues of Rwf 8,000 for cleaning the premises with provision to revise the charges after ten years.
The agreement, a copy of which was seen by this paper, was signed between Eugene Rugambage, the then district Bourgmestre (mayor) and different traders who had contributed to the construction of the commercial building.
However, trouble started after the district asked the traders to pay monthly rent of Rwf885,000 effective February 1, 2014, making traders to wonder how they can pay rent for their own structure.
The cooperative president, Fredric Karangwa, said what they need is ownership of the building and they are ready to drag the district to court.
“Our cooperative is recognised by government and we have all the documents confirming ownership of the building,” he said, adding that no tenant will pay rent.
He added that members were surprised after learning that the district indirectly registered the building under its name.
Laurent Bugabo, the cooperative’s lawyer, said he had given the district up to 30 days to respond to the traders’ concerns or face court action.
Over 500 traders operate in the structure.
However, when contacted, Nyarugenge District mayor Solange Mukasonga insisted the building under contention belongs to the district.
“We have never signed any agreement with the cooperative over that building. It is the district that owns the building and they are free to go to court,” she said.
Augustine Hitiyaremye, a trader operating a bookshop in the building, said the rent was very high.
“It is unfair, most of these people own small businesses like hair salons, some just sell shoes. You cannot ask such people to pay that amount of money unless they want us to close our businesses and go back to villages,” he said.