Residents of Mageragere Sector, Nyarugenge District want the government to accelerate plans to move them from the area surrounding the correctional facility in fear of health risks.
On a field visit by The New Times to the area, the residents, who live in the vicinity of Nyarugenge Prison in Mageragere Sector appealed for what they called a ‘rescue from a potentially health hazard’ characterised by bio-gas emissions from the facility.
As our team trekked the hill towards Nyakabingo village in the same sector, all we could see were dry fields, mostly uncultivated.
As we went higher, the imposing wall of the correctional facility, covered in mesh and barbed wire at the top came into view.
A few metres from the parameter wall is Beata Nyiraneza’s home. The mother of six, who recently gave birth to a pair of twins, tells us that her wish is to be expropriated so that she can relocate her children to a healthier environment.
“Those inside the facility don’t get to smell what we do because the biogas facility is behind the walls and further down, closer to our homes,” she narrated. “The truth is that we are having a really hard time. The stench is unbearable. We wash our utensils and in no time, they are full of flies. The odour is so strong that it sometimes wakes us up.”
Nyiraneza says that while valuation of their property was carried out by some people ahead of expropriation, authorities have not formally addressed the issue.
Marie-Jeanne Kayirenzi is a mother of three and has lived in Mageragere for years. She says that the uncertainty of whether expropriation is happening or not has left the community in dilemma.
Local authorities, she said, have since the valuation barred people in the area from renovating their houses. In addition, the residents have halted all agriculture activity on their land
“We need the government to address this,” Kayirenzi said, emphasising that the process should be expedited for the sake of the children who are being born around the area that is not health friendly.
The issue of Mageragere was last week the subject of scrutiny by the Parliamentary Committee on National Unity, Human Rights and the fight against Genocide after it was raised by MP Marie Pélagie Uwamariya Rutijanwa.
Addressing the Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye, whose portfolio includes overseeing the day to day running of correctional facilities, Rutijanwa said that the close proximity by Mageragere residents to the prison was a result of poor expropriation methods.
She appealed for a quick solution to this issue which she said spans many years.
“When we visited, the Prison authorities told us that they are uncomfortable because they cannot expand their activities due to the nature of the homesteads surrounding the area. Also, the homes and the people living there are uncomfortable because of how close they are to the prisoners. They are almost doing the same chores. It is unacceptable,” she said.
Minister Busingye explained to the committee that the government was looking into the matter and discussions to fix it were ongoing.
Busingye said that the Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS) authorities have previously indicated the need to do whatever is necessary to expropriate these people and create a buffer zone for the safety of everyone concerned.
“We have no issues with the people of Mageragere because we didn’t buy their land but we have issues with their very close proximity with the prison,” the Minister told MPs. “What we are trying to avoid is someone for example selling illegal merchandise that can end up in the facility or being an accomplice in crimes.”