Minister for Justice Johnston Busingye has warned district commitees in charge of management of abandoned properties against mishandling the assets. This was during a workshop, on Wednesday, aimed at looking at how abandoned property was being managed.
“It is among your attributes to manage abandoned properties on behalf of those who abandoned them. Yet some of you attach less value to them and do not manage them properly which is absurd,” Busingye said.
He gave an example of a house that would normally bring in Rwf400,000 in monthly rent, but instead fetches Rwf70,000 or less. It is as if it is given away for free, which he said was not acceptable.
According to the law, of the proceeds accrued from the monthly rental of an abandoned property, the committee uses one third towards renovation and meeting administrative costs, while the rest is deposited on a dedicated account in the central bank until the owners return or a person is given powers of attorney.
Busingye said members of the committees should be wary of people who may use underhand methods to take over the properties entrusted to them on behalf of absentee owners.
Each district committee is made up of five people; two working at the district while the others are people of integrity appointed by the District Council.
A property is listed as abandoned when the entire family that owned it was wiped out, leaving no one to take over, or where owners have left the country leaving no one with powers of attorney to administer over an estate.
Such cases became rampant in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Didier Sagashya, the Deputy Director General for land and mapping at Rwanda Natural Resources Authority, said mismanagement of abandoned properties posed challenges to urban planning.
“We have various plots of land that were abandoned in different towns and the City of Kigali. Some have buildings that are crumbling. This poses challenges to the implementation of master plans,” he pointed out.
Jean Baptist Ruzibiza, a land registrar and member of the commission for abandoned properties in Gicumbi District, said identification of the properties was among the challenges faced.
“It is not easy to identify abandoned properties since those who use such properties say they belong to their relatives and have to manage them in the absence of owners”, Ruzibiza said.
For Marie Claire Uwumuremyi, a committee member in Nyanza District, lack of information about such properties was among the main challenges they face.
“When people get to know that a certain property is to be registered as abandoned, they think that the government wants to attach it for the benefit of the government and not the owners.
There is a need for sensitisation to change this kind of mindset because it makes our work hard,” Uwumuremyi said.