Survival in slum areas

Kigali, like any other city in third world countries is characterised by slums and poor and unplanned settlements.

Kigali, like any other city in third world countries is characterised by slums and poor and unplanned settlements.

The current statistics by Kigali City Council (KCC) show that the shoddy settlements comprise a massive 70 per cent.

Some individuals in Kigali City were formerly allocated plots and later constructed houses without plan, leave alone abiding with KCC laws on infrastructure development.

This has consequently resulted into slums and poor structures that hinder infrastructure development and the government’s efforts to extend services such as electricity, health in such areas.

Vanessa Mukayiranga in Kimisagara says life in slums is taxing as it’s pigeonholed by high rates of poverty and unemployment especially among the youths.

Drug addiction, alcoholism and redundant tendencies are widespread among unemployed youths and due to the demands of life survival, they resort to grabbing people’s hand bags and mobile phones.

“Women and non energetic individuals, are in excessive fear of walking alone especially during evening hours; there is a lot of drug smoking along the pathway-corridor that are leading to our houses,” she says.

Most people in such areas are also vulnerable to disease due to sanitary conditions which are not good and lack basic health care.

“So, mothers have to adopt the wrap-and-throw method of excreta disposal for children, which in turn jeopardises the already limited space available for farming, trade and play grounds for children,” Mukayiranga says.

Largely, structures in slums have leaking roofs; poorly finished mud floors, mud walls, and some have no windows or secure doors, conditions worse to put people’s lives in danger.

“Few may survive in these leaning houses in case our area experiences earthquake strikes like that occurred on February 3 that claimed 36 lives and 643 people reportedly injured and traumatized,” she laments.

“Most slum dwellers are the youths and migrants from poor rural areas in search of menial jobs in the city,” she adds.

She further explains how young women get absorbed into domestic work but eventually drift into sex work due to lack of choice of life or in pursuit of better pay for their survival.

Frédéric Ruzigandekwe of Nyabugogo says that the smell that comes from toilets and bathrooms usually make people develop abdominal complications.

“Water from bathrooms in the slum areas is left to flow in to channels that are not covered,” he says.

He also says cooking and food handling is unhygienic in such an environment due to the fact that most people in slums don’t have kitchen, cooking is entirely done on dust- velanders which expose many people to diseases like cholera and dysentery.

Kigali City Council efforts

Egide Mugwiza, Director of Urban Planning and Infrastructure Development in KCC says over 46 families of lower parts of Kiyovu slum, have been re-allocated to Batsinda, a less dense populated areas, where low cost housing have been availed.

“A total of 336 families is expected be evacuated and as I talk now 78 families have put in requests for houses from the city council,” Mugwiza said recently.

KCC in partnership with Rwanda Housing Bank (RHB), formerly (Caisse Hypothécaire du Rwanda) constructed two hundred and fifty homes in Batsinda Gasabo District, with capacity to accommodate about 250 families.

He further said there are many other families living in slums in the city centre, occupying areas that would be used for other developments such as construction of business centres, pharmacies among others.

“The reason why City Council is planning to evict and resettle people living in slums is to ensure citizens access better houses in more secure and hygienic environment to avoid disease and accidents that are associated with them,” Mugwiza added.

However, there is a lot of speculation arising among people wondering if the plan would be fruitful; the soon-to-be evictees are suspicious of the City Council plans.

Secondly, the evictees are also worried about compensations terms which from the outlook seem to be very complex since they will be subjected to expensive homesteads and therefore they will end up seeking for loans and the burden of paying them off.

Mugwiza further said that KCC in partnership with the RHB had designed a strategy to help the evicted people generate income through extending small-income generating projects which will help them cater for their families and at the same time service their loans.

Mugwiza also said that the relocation site is approximately five Kilometres away from the Kigali with vibrant trading centres which will help these people to do business instead of the illegal trade done in most slums.

“I believe that people living in such estates instead of slums would make it easy for government to provide modern and well organised infrastructures such as good schools, market places, electricity, clean water and medical services among others,” Mugwiza added.

Government’s efforts

The Government through the Ministry of Local government has always emphasised the urge to construct houses for vulnerable groups of people in various districts around the country in an effort to uplift their living standards.

Protais Musoni Minister of Local government said recently during a meeting with mayors, provincial governors and security officers at police headquarters in Kacyiru that mayors who had not accomplished the assignment of building and without genuine reasons would be dealt with accordingly,” Musoni added.

About Frw3, 143,755,020 was given to mayors in 2006 and 2007, for the construction of houses for Genocide survivors and other vulnerable groups from the National Assistance Fund for the Survivors of Genocide (FARG).

The ministry of local government also gave another Frw100, 000,000 and Frw75, 896,800 in 2006 and 2007 respectively for the construction of these houses.

Therefore, over 4267 houses were supposed to be built by November 2007 countrywide but only 1198 have been constructed.

On February 5, this year, the ministry of local government held a meeting with the vice Mayors countrywide to discuss the progress of various districts as far as house construction work was concerned.

During the same meeting, mayors promised to complete construction by the end of the month though little has been done.

“It seems as if some of them misused the funds, since there are no reports indicating how far they have reached, except the verbal communications,” a highly placed source from the ministry said shortly after the meeting.

Aimé Bosenibamwe, the Mayor of Burera district in the Northern Province told The New Times that his district had no problem with beating the deadline.

“We have no problem with the set date; we are at the final stages of the construction process, “Bosenibamwe said
Félix Sibomana, Mayor of Nyaruguru district in Southern Province said that the set deadline is not realistic since houses to be constructed are many yet a lot of construction materials were still missing.

However, Eugéne Barikana, the Secretary General of the Ministry of local government assured mayors that preparations were underway to ensure that building materials get to them as early as possible.

Nonetheless, the demand for houses is still high and therefore there is need for collaboration between local and international real estate developers and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Local Administration to develop well planned residential estates in the city for easy accessibility, investment and attraction.

Contact: pauluskayiggwa@yahoo.com

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