The City of Kigali’s decision to permanently close down SATRA abattoir, commonly known as “Kwa Didi,” has been greeted with mixed reactions from business operators and other stakeholders such as persons who have been working with the entity.
Last week, the City of Kigali shut down SATRA abattoir in Nyakabanda Cell, Niboye Sector in Kicukiro District, which has been one of the three biggest facilities in the city that slaughter animals for meat processing and immediate consumption.
In a November 23 letter, the City directed the suspension of all the slaughterhouse activities, saying it was part of ongoing effort to close facilities that operate in wetlands.
But the affected business proprietors claim that the City of Kigali had never warned them, despite the city contending that they had alerted them beforehand.
When The New Times visited the facility last week, business people were stranded as no activity was going on. By Tuesday, still there was no activity, but five policemen were deployed to guard the facility.
According to William Didi, one of the proprietors of the business, the directive came as a surprise.
He argued that there was a contradiction in the reasons cited for the closure of their business.
Originally, Didi said, the City ordered the closure of the facility for operating in a wetland, but later they sent a different letter citing poor hygiene conditions.
“Initially, City officials instructed us to close, saying that we were operating in a wetland, but the next day one of the City officials brought us a letter informing us that the hygiene standards of the facility were not met. They are giving us contradicting reasons,” he explained.
Didi said that they don’t know what exactly the city officials want them to do.
The New Times has obtained copies of letters exchanged between the proprietors and the City of Kigali, one of which is dated November 23 in which the City suspended all the slaughterhouse activities, as well as another that the proprietors sent to the City officials indicating that they had all relevant documents certifying that the business was not operating in a wetland.
“But until now, we haven’t received any response from them. We attached all the land titles, copies of the contracts of the cleaning company we work with, and we requested to meet them to explain our position,” said Xavier Rugondo Mugabe, the director of the slaughterhouse.
This newspaper also obtained copies of the land titles, the contract between the Ubumwe Cleaning House – which caters for cleanliness of the slaughterhouse – and the certificate of the environment impact assessment from Rwanda Development Board (RDB) awarded to the enterprise.
But when contacted, Patricie Mukangarambe, the director of public health and environment at the City of Kigali, said that multiple assessments had pointed to the reasons cited for the closure.
“That facility has had hygienic problems and we have frequently informed them of changing their operations. As the City, we conduct regular inspections and we suspend activities that do not comply with the environmental guidelines,” she said.
“They may have acquired the environment impact assessment certificate, but in the implementation process they fail to comply with the guidelines,” she added.
Mukangarambe also said most of the waste from the facility could go directly to the wetland, which she said would put peoples’ lives at risk.
“Actually such small-scale establishments have dedicated areas of operations,” she noted, without mentioning which areas.
Local business people speak out
Clementine Byukusenge, a businesswoman who has been operating a butchery near the facility, said the City’s decision has dragged them into losses.
“We came to work on Friday only to find that Police had cordoned off the place. All the activities had stopped and when we tried to ask we were told that the entire business had closed,” she told The New Times.
Byukusenge said that she had five cows at the facility that were lined up for slaughter that day, but that she had to incur extra transportation costs to take them to another facility where she had no option but to sell them cheaply.
“I have lost about Rwf200,000 in that process but what is more annoying is that the business has also closed,” she said.
Shakira Uwimbabazi, who also sold beef around the facility, is concerned about the unexpected decision of closing the facility.
“The closure of the facility has affected all of us. I had contracts with clients but I don’t know what’s next now. I have kids at school, I have a bank loan, and this is the business that has been helping me,” she said.
Uwimbabazi is among the over 40 workers and businessmen and women who have been working directly with the facility, according to the proprietors.
The slaughterhouse has been operating since 1997 and, according to the owners, it is the first time that the City of Kigali has taken “such a decision without prior information.”
“We were not informed about closing the business, and seriously if they wanted us to relocate, they would have given us time to move. You cannot destroy a business like that in one day. The truth is, if they don’t want us to be there, they would give us time and we leave,” Mugabe said.