Monique Mukaruliza succeeded Fidel Ndayisaba as the Mayor of the City of Kigali following an election last week. Before her election as mayor, Mukaruliza served as the national coordinator of the Northern Corridor Integration Initiative. She had earlier served as Minister for East African Community Affairs. She takes office at a time when despite the city’s development in previous years, city dwellers continue to have several concerns, especially around urbanisation. The New Times’ Collins Mwai spoke to the new mayor about her priorities and approaches over her first five-year term.
As the new city mayor, what are some of the targets that you have set for yourself in regards to city development?
Among the key targets to be pursued in regard to city development include infrastructure development, constant improvement in service delivery, involvement of all the stakeholders, including the population as well as the private sector in expediting the implementation of the City of Kigali master plan. Other targets include uplifting the city greening and beautification; security and socio-economic transformation.
Among the concerns of city dwellers is that the pace of development and city growth has surpassed the pace of development of basic infrastructure required for a modern city such as electricity grid, water supply and road network.
How do you intend to speed up the rollout of basic infrastructure to ensure balanced development?
To address the water concerns, we have a project of rehabilitation, reinforcement and extension of water supply distribution network in Gasabo, Nyarugenge and Kicukiro. We also have Kigali bulk water supply project that will add 40,000 cubic metres per day in Kigali and Bugesera. In partnership with WASAC, the construction of Nzove II water plant has enabled us to add 25,000 cubic metres per day in the city water network. By this, we hope to address the shortage of water in the city.
On electricity grid roll-out, with different national power generation projects and also the trade of power in the region expected to start this year (importation of power from Kenya and other Northern Corridor countries), the power shortage will be soon addressed.
We intend to work closely in partnership with the private sector, to extend our existing road network. We intend to expand the existing single carriage way to dual and four lanes to six lane dual carriage way.
We will also improve major junctions (interchanges, roundabouts, traffic lights). This will be centred on six major junctions; Gishushu, Gisimenti, Giporoso, Nyabugogo, SEZ and Airport-Rwamagana road junction to address congestion.
In addition, we have undertaken the construction of 100 kilometres of cobble roads and a plan to construct additional 56 asphalt roads.
A section of the private sector says that they do not feel involved enough in the decision-making process of some policies and regulation that they are expected to comply with eg, noise pollution and car free zone. Going forward, how do you intend to ensure that they are involved in decision making processes?
The private sector is well represented in the Council of the City of Kigali, districts councils, sectors as well as in the cell councils. The sector is also engaged through the Kigali Investment Forum and other forums. We hope that the public private dialogue will help us to link up with the private sector. We will also increase awareness activities and consultation through public private partnership.
Kigali aims at becoming an internationally renowned hub for hosting meeting and conferences, what plans do you have to facilitate toward this goal working with the various stakeholders?
We will continue to work hand in hand with RDB and Rwanda Convention Bureau to ensure the smooth running of those international meetings, seminars and workshops. We will put emphasis on doing business, infrastructure development, security and hygiene not forgetting the hospitality.
Still on hosting conferences, some of the policies and regulations are restrictive against entertainment such as noise restrictions for entertainment spots in the capital. When attending meetings a section of the guests may want to visit night clubs. How are you going to ensure that the policy does not harm the goal of hosting meetings?
Night clubs have to operate in a safe environment, so there is no going back to noise pollution. Besides, all night clubs have been instructed to equip themselves with sound proofs. We have to also accommodate guests who will visit Kigali expecting to get calm environment free of noise pollution.
It’s nearly a year since the introduction of a car-free zone, a large section of Kigali residents are yet to see its benefits and advantages, with others seeing it as a disruption of business. How do you intend to make it relevant in the city?
Car-free zone is at first a recreation space. It is a place where people can walk safely without fearing road accidents, relax and jog and go for shopping. We disagree with those who said it disrupted the businesses. We believe that when the people walk by foot around your shop, they are likely to come in and buy. People around the car-free zone can testify.
You bring a rich experience of regional integration to the city management, how do you intend to use it to make Kigali relevant in the region as an administrative and business hub in the region?
I will use my huge experience of regional integration to attract businesses from the region to the City of Kigali. We will use inspiration from different policies of the region to build strong relationship with other capital cities of the region to attract more visitors and tourists.
There has been expropriation in some areas in the city to create space for planned development according to the master plan, but up to now there is still yet to be any developments taking place. How do you intend to handle this?
There is a process from expropriation to space development. Most of the available land has been acquired by investors and is now being developed. We continue encouraging Rwandans to be involved in the development of different areas according to the City Master Plan.
Some say that due to what could be inadequate planning in the capital, there has been unrealistic increase in the prices of real estate across the city putting it out of the affordable range of most people. What are your thoughts on this?
With existing affordable housing scheme, we believe that Kigali city will continue to be as inclusive as it can.
We will ensure the design and construction of new integrated neighborhoods: in this we will promote mixed-use, mixed-income, higher density neighborhoods and a number of projects are underway. These projects include, Batsinda Affordable Housing projects to provide 536 dwelling units, Rugarama Affordable Housing projects to provide 2200 dwelling units and Kigali Urban Upgrading Project targeting 4, 500 families in Nyarugenge Sector.
As the city continues to develop and become popular, it still lacks a brand with which it can be identified with globally, what are your thoughts on creating a brand of city?
Branding Kigali is an important idea. The motto of the City of Kigali, which is “Better Service Delivery,” and the vision of being a centre of urban excellence in Africa are geared toward achieving this. But for the time being, the City of Kigali is well known for security and cleanliness.