The ongoing land re-distribution in the Eastern Province has left some top government officials and senior army officers who formerly owned hundreds of hectares of land with not more than 25 hectares each.
But they are pleased and optimistic about the exercise, in which many citizens who were formerly land-less have benefited. They also plan to use their new share of 25 hectares for maximum production.
President Paul Kagame directed the re-distribution and was in the province to supervise the exercise as it kicked off last Tuesday in Nyagatare District. The President stayed there till Thursday and is expected to go back as the exercise resumes this week.
The chairman of a joint commission that re-distributed the farms, Maj. Gen. Fred Ibingira, had about 320 hectares but remained with 25 hectares in Karangazi after the re-allocation exercise last Wednesday. Gen. Ibingira looked composed during the re-distribution of his farms.
In an interview afterwards, Ibingira said: “Everybody has to welcome this activity because it is to the benefit of our people; surprisingly I am one of those that chaired the re-demarcation commission but I did not pass-by my farm, I gave it out and it was redistributed.”
He added: “Something has to be got clearly by all land owners; land belongs to the government and this new policy is for sharing; my family and I have shared the big land we had with others.
“The policy is not applied to ministers and senior officers in the army only; it applies to everybody who has very big land which can be shared.”
The Minister of Local Government, Protais Musoni, had 351 hectares of his farm located in Kabarore sector, Gatsibo district re-distributed. He retained 25 hectares.
“This is a very good activity; we are trying to solve problems that have persisted for long, this is the beginning and the activity will be continuous,” Musoni said after the re-allocation of his farm.
He said that he is willing to assist furthermore those in dire need of land.
“If need arise, I will still have to share the remaining 25 hectares. Our population is growing and we need to avail our people with land.”
He encouraged top government officials to take part in the re-distribution exercise.
Senator Dr Joseph Karemera had 53 hectares, of which 28 hectares were re-distribution.
Karemera remarked that the re-distribution exercise is one of the ways to eradicate poverty in the country.
He said it did not matter much now how land was gotten those days, adding that what is now importance is that the issue has been properly addressed to the satisfaction of the giver and the receiver.
The Senator also appreciates the fact the country is small, saying that sharing the little available land is the realistic means to sustainable development.
The land re-distribution has so far seen the farms of Lt. Gen Charles Kayonga, Lt Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa (now Rwanda’s envoy to India), Maj. Gen Ibingira, Brig. Gen. Kaka and Brig Gen. Rusagara re-allocated. Others are Minister Musoni and Senator Karemera.
Most of the beneficiaries from the exercise are returnees from Tanzania and those who were evicted from within the parameters of both the Akagera National Park and the Gabiro School of Infantry.
The land re-distribution process in the province was initiated last July on the directive of the President. A taskforce, comprising senior officers from both the RDF and National Police, together with officials from the Ministry of Lands, Environment, Forests, Water and Mines was formed to handle the process.
The exercise, which began last week in Nyagatare district, resumes tomorrow and will cover Gatsibo, Kayonza and Kirehe districts as well.