Residents contest ‘unfair’ demolitions

KARONGI - The district’s recent decision to demolish a number of structures in Karongi town was unfair and probably targeted some particular tenants, a group of town residents said yesterday.
The demolition of houses such as this one has not gone well with residents (Photo: S. Nkurunziza)
The demolition of houses such as this one has not gone well with residents (Photo: S. Nkurunziza)

KARONGI - The district’s recent decision to demolish a number of structures in Karongi town was unfair and probably targeted some particular tenants, a group of town residents said yesterday.

The group, whose restaurant was demolished, allege that their recent eviction from their land was caused by anger on the part of the district’s vice mayor in charge of social affairs, Simbi Dative, who had failed to acquire that particular plot of land, popular due to its strategic location.

They say their land has been at the centre of a longstanding dispute with district authorities, the climax of which was the demolition of the restaurant last week.

“Last year she (vice mayor) wanted to grab our land because it is located at the shores of Lake Kivu near the district telecentre but due to the intervention of other parties, she failed to do so,” Jackson Kanamugire, the group’s leader told The New Times yesterday.

Kanamugire is among over 30 families that were evicted because their houses do not conform to the newly introduced housing standards.

They however maintain that the eviction was meant to pave way for the vice mayor to finally obtain the plot, an accusation that the district vehemently denies.

In an interview yesterday, Sebastien Hakizimana, vice Mayor in charge of economic affairs, admitted that his colleague ‘wrongly’ tried to acquire the contentious piece of land.

“The land was temporarily given to them and an error was made when the vice mayor attempted to buy it but the issue was resolved and the land remains government property,” Hakizimana said.

He explained that the eviction forms part of the district’s long-term transformation of housing and related infrastructure which has also seen the relocation of Kibuye market, a number of offices and various work premises that do not conform to the new standards.

Karongi district is one of the priority areas in addition to Rubavu and Rusizi, whereby the western province seeks to significantly improve the economic potential and sanitation standards.

However, residents have expressed fears over the planned demolition of their structures without prior notice being given.

“We should be informed about these activities well in advance, because when people are not given any warning, most of them are left homeless,” one of the evicted residents observed.

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