Ten years on, evicted Gishwati residents wait for compensation

The complainants said they are always in a dilemma as they have fulfilled all the requirements and yet cannot secure their compensation.
A view of Gishwati forest, now part of Gishwati-Mukura National Park. File.

Some residents of Rubavu and Nyabihu districts who used to own land on the outskirts of Gishwati Forest have appealed to Government to expedite their compensation.

The residents were expropriated in 2008 to pave way for the development of Gishwati-Mukura National Park.

Gishwati-Mukura National Park, which was created in 2015, is Rwanda’s newest park. It is one of the four national parks in the country along with Akagera, Nyungwe and Volcanoes.

Some 60 residents said they are yet to receive their compensation despite having raised the issue with Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) and district authorities. Others claimed that REMA insists that they had been compensated even as they haven’t received the money.

“I went to REMA and they showed me some documents with my signature as one of the people who had been compensated, convincing me that I had no reason to complain. The signature was the agreement of expropriation acceptance not expropriation reimbursement,” Jean-Paul Habimana, from Nyakiliba Sector, Rubavu District, told The New Times.

Habimana is seeking Rwf2.5 million from the half hectare piece of land he used to own.

Government said that it has compensated people to the tune of 99 per cent. Out of the Rwf1.7 billon Government owed to the residents, Rwf1.58 billion has been paid out, meaning that Rwf120 million is yet to be paid.

The complainants said they are always in a dilemma as they have fulfilled all the requirements and yet cannot secure their compensation.

“When I ask district officials they give me documents to fill in and tell me to wait for some unspecified time. They told me that there are mistakes they are correcting. How can someone correct errors for ten years?” Samuel Nzakamwita, a resident of Nyabihu District, posed.

The Rubavu District Mayor, Gilbert Habyarimana, confirmed that recently the district identified the issue and set up a team to follow up on the matter. He pledged to fix the issue as soon as possible.

Residents have become agitated, arguing that they did all they were required to do, but it did not produce positive response.

Prime Ngabonziza, the Director General of Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority (RWFA), recommended those with complaints to fulfill all the requirements and consult their districts to get their money

“Some of them did not have IDs, others used their relatives’ bank accounts and few of them were not available to get their compensation,” he said.

While authorities deployed various means of communication, according to Ngabonziza, including using to radio announcements, public meetings, and religious gatherings and spread the word, some of them are still uninformed about the process.

RWFA insists that the documents upon which to compensate these people are now in Rubavu and Nyabihu districts where Gishwati forest has been expanded but some people who owned land near the woodland chased for long and are still waiting for reimbursement.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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