EDITORIAL: Land grabbers have found their match

Land has always been an issue in Rwanda. With the population explosion in the post-independence era, it became a source of domestic conflicts.

The problems became even more pronounced when it came to inheritance where land was sub-divided among family members – but not the female offspring.

The governments of the day also turned it into a political excuse saying they could not repatriate refugees since they had nowhere to accommodate them.

When the country was liberated in 1994, many returnees found their property had been grabbed. So there was an urgent need to find a middle ground. That is how land distribution came about.

The Government went as far as chopping off nearly half of the Akagera National Park to relocate people, and since most were herders, they needed a lot of space for their cows as they were still raising their cows the traditional way.

As would be expected in such situations that had little safety measures, the well-connected were the ones who benefited most. Few people received large swathes of land while those who needed it most were left in the cold.

The Government again had to step in to redistribute the land with a limited acreage per person with the hope they would be well-exploited to increase agricultural production. But some people let the land sit idle, possibly with the hope of speculating on it at a later stage.

It is, therefore, a welcome move that the Government has repossessed all idle land to redistribute it to those with viable projects. But it should also investigate cases of absentee landlords who rent out the land they were given by the Government. They are no different from speculators.