Matters arising from public land sharing policy that was carried out between 1994 and 2012 continue to come at the top of the list of cases that are received by courts and mediation organs.
This was revealed, yesterday, by MP Francois Byabarumwanzi, chairperson of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Unity, Human Rights and Fight against Genocide.
Responding to questions after summoning the Mayor of Gatsibo, Richard Gasana, over land issues in the district, Byabarumwanzi said summoning leaders was part of the commission’s duties of fixing problems where they have been reported.
“Every year, we review the annual reports of the National Human Rights Commission and there are always problems that were raised by locals. Whether it’s in courts of law or elsewhere, land issues top the list. At the time of land sharing, there were several problems that arose from the process and later, between individuals,” he said.
Gasana said the country’s history that had seen many people flee to exile while others incarcerated for their role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi had made land issues a nationwide problem.
“When land sharing was incorporated into the law, some people who owned land were still living outside the country while others were serving sentences for Genocide crimes. This meant that the commission that was in charge of land distribution did not have adequate information about each and every land owner, which is probably the main reason for all these problems,” he said.
Gasana cited the issue where people had been away for long and their land had been distributed among poor citizens. He said that though the Government is obliged to find affected persons land to compensate what was taken, most original land owners do not appreciate that the Government cannot offer the exact size they owned before.
Article 68 of the land law says that land sharing that was carried out between 1994 and 30th June 2012, when the first systematic registration of all land was completed, is recognised by the law. Holders of such land will enjoy the same rights as those under customary holdings.
A person who could have qualified for land sharing when it was still ongoing, but did not, because of not being in the country during the land sharing period, may seek for resettlement by the Government.
Gasana also noted that there was also the issue of people who benefited from the land sharing process under false pretense and warned that the law would eventually catch up with them.
“There are people who did not tell the truth and were actually given land when they already had it somewhere else. The law gives us authority to confiscate the land title,” he said.
MP Chantal Mukayisenga said those who misled the Government that they were vulnerable yet they already had land should not be let off.
“Authorities should sue such people, it doesn’t matter whether they sold the land already, they should be followed up and prosecuted,” she said.