EDITORIAL: How did colonial laws survive this long?

The Catholic Church is the biggest landowner in Rwanda and occupies some of the prime spots all over the country, housing the majority of schools and monasteries. Even most prime real estate in Kigali is in the hands of the Church.

The vast ownership was not a result of smart investments but a golden gift embedded in the law enacted in 1943. It gave free concessions to religious and scientific organisations as well as government agencies established by the Belgian kingdom.

The Church was given access to 20 hectares of land in urban areas and 200 hectares in rural settings, so it made the best out of the law.

Another ridiculous law that was enacted in 1930 forbade bars from selling alcoholic drinks on credit, thankfully  the little-known law was buried somewhere in the books, otherwise today there would be a load of tearful bar owners who have no legal recourse in case someone defaulted.

Those are some of the close to 1,000 colonial laws that are set to be repealed soon but it kind of blows the mind to wonder how they remained in the legal texts for this long.

The situation today makes some of those laws inapplicable so no one really gave them a second thought, but on a legal point of view, the country could be sitting on a ticking time bomb. An example is the zoning law that reserved some neighbourhoods for whites only. Therefore, there is legal ground to evict some of the residents of upper Kiyovu.

There could be other leftover by-laws still in place, especially some that seem harmless, but it is prudent not to leave any loose ends when it comes to the law, so repealing all those colonial laws and orders is long overdue.