Residents of Rubavu District have expressed concerns over delays in expropriating them after their property fell within the revised parameters of Gisenyi Airport.
The residents say since the area was valuated and earmarked as part of the airport eight years ago, they have not been able to use their land productively or even allowed to make renovations on their houses.
Some of them say they have been denied loans from banks because they have no rights on their property and can therefore not stake it as collateral.
Gady Sibomana, one of the affected people, said prior to the expropriation, he had acquired a loan from the bank to build a rental housing unit but was stopped before he could finish construction works.
“Now for years I have been servicing a loan with interest on a non-productive venture which is unfair because I had my project already planned had they not stopped me,” he said.
Others say their houses need rehabilitation but they cannot get permission from authorities.
‘’My house is about to collapse yet I have no permission to rehabilitate it, we have had several meetings on the issue and have been promised to be paid but we have lost hope and this has left us in poor conditions,” said Bernadette Nyirakomeza.
During a visit by senators to Rubavu, the affected residents expressed their disappointment over the delayed payment and the senators pledged advocacy for them to be paid.
Perrine Mukankusi, the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Development, said that the issue has been there since 2006 and that they had been assured by government that it would be addressed in the next financial year.
Over 860 households from Gisenyi and Rubavu sectors are affected.
Numbers revised downwords
Senator Mukankusi said the number of affected people was brought down from 2,000 households who lived within a radius of 2 kilometres from the airport to the current 860 households who are within 1.5 kilometres.
Mukankusi said before it was revised, the process had been estimated to cost at least Rwf10 billion, which was too much for Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA).
The amount it will cost after the revision was not readily available.
“We have held talks with RCAA and they have promised to solve this problem in the next financial year, I promise you we shall follow up to make sure they pay you within the time they promised ,” the senator added.
Clarisse Imanizabayo, the executive secretary of Rubavu Sector, said while they are still waiting for the expropriation they will allow the residents do the most essential rehabilitation.
Tony Barigye, the RCAA communication officer, said they meant to relocate the people as part of measures to ensure safety and security of the community around the airports.
He said the number of passengers has been increasing and that plans to expand this particular airport are underway, following the expansion of Kigali International Airport and Kamembe Airport.
The annual number of passengers coming to Rwanda increased from 280,000 five years ago to 600,000 last year, according to Barigye.
“Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority wants to ensure safety and security, we want people around the airport to relocate and we apologise for inconveniences over expropriation delays and we assure they will be paid in the next financial year’s budget,” said Barigye.