Nyarugenge to sell off abandoned properties

A verandah of a home. As of 2018, abandoned property came to a total of 1,166, including 353 houses, nationwide. Photo: File.

Nyarugenge District is set to sell off 12 of the 26 abandoned properties that have been billed to be in ‘bad shape’ to individuals or businesses interested in developing them, The New Times can exclusively reveal.

Abandoned property is by law described as any immovable or movable property unrightfully possessed by others or neglected by owners due to the fact that the rightful owners died without leaving a legally recognised heir, does not reside in Rwanda for various reasons without having left behind a person legally authorized to manage it.

Such cases became rampant in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Speaking to The New Times, the Nyarugenge vice mayor in charge of finance and economic development, Vedaste Nsabimana, said that the decision was made by the district committee that manages abandoned properties.

This committee is made up of five members, including vice mayor in charge of finance and economic development as its chairperson and four others picked from the National Women Council, the National Youth Council, the Private Sector Federation (PSF) and an engineer from the district’s one stop construction centre.

Article 14 says that upon the approval by the Minister of Justice, the relevant organ may transfer a plot, unfinished or a demolished house and associated facilities in a state of abandonment.

“However, before the plot or the house and associated facilities are transferred, monetary value will be paid by the recipient and land title for the abandoned property shall be invalid after the registration of the recipient,” it reads.

Nsabimana told The New Times that the decision to sell the property was made based on the fact that the properties, both residential and commercial, are dilapidated beyond repair and not on the Kigali Master Plan among other reasons.

“These properties are very old. They are the kind that even if you wanted to renovate, wouldn’t be able to without razing the entire building down and starting afresh. We felt that it is best to sell them off to people who can develop them and put them to better use,” he said.

He however refused to divulge the properties in question.

Ownership rights

Nsabimana explained that proceeds from running or selling abandoned properties is banked and should the owners eventually show up, the money is transferred to them alongside the properties.

“The law is clear. In fact, in my opinion, the law is on the side of the property owners. When you return (to the country_ come back, we hand over the money that came from your property and your property. We have been doing that because the law is very clear,” he said.

According to Article 10 of the law relating to the management of abandoned property, if the owner of the property shows up and provides sufficient evidence of ownership, the property shall be automatically returned to him or her.

However, in the event that the person to whom the property is due to be restored is prosecuted for the crime of genocide, crime against humanity and war crime, any interested person may lodge a request that the property be provisionally seized in accordance with relevant legal provisions.

The same law indicates that the money will also be refunded after deducting 10 per cent which is transferred to the public treasury account.

If there is no claimant of ownership of the money deposited on the fixed account, it shall become the property of the State on the basis of statutory limitation period and upon the decision of a competent court.

Senior officials in the Ministry of justice said that 25 years since the genocide against Tutsis, most of the abandoned property is expensive to maintain forcing the district committees to make decisions to sell.

“There are cases where you find that the house has been patched up, renovated here and there but it needed a large sum of money to be completely overhauled. The district cannot do that because that is not part of the long term mandate,” the officials said.

As of 2018, nationwide, abandoned property came to a total of 1,166, including 353 houses, 47 pieces of land, 674 crop farms, 10 animal farms, 77 forests, one petrol station and four factories.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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