Kagame clears air on Ntebe country home

KIGALI - President Paul Kagame has said that circumstances under which he acquired his Ntebe farm in Kayonza, Eastern District, were straightforward.
President Kagame addressing reporters at Village Urugwiro on monday.(Photo/G. Barya)
President Kagame addressing reporters at Village Urugwiro on monday.(Photo/G. Barya)

KIGALI - President Paul Kagame has said that circumstances under which he acquired his Ntebe farm in Kayonza, Eastern District, were straightforward. Addressing a press conference at Village Urugwiro on Monday, Kagame said nobody was victimised as a result of his acquisition of the 43-hectare land near Lake Muhazi.

He said he acquired the land around 1995 after obtaining its title from the Ministry of Agriculture (Minagri).

“I did not buy it but applied for it and duly got it,” he said when asked him to clear the air on how he got the said piece of land.

A couple of months ago, Kagame instructed that people owning huge chunks of land at the expense of others give away part of it or pay for extra hectares beyond the required minimum.

It was agreed that nobody should have more than 25 hectares to help allocate land for the landless.

A joint commission of the military and police is working with officials from the Eastern Province to try and redistribute land in areas where residents have complained about huge chunks of land owned by top leaders including military and police officers.

The President said his land formerly belonged to a Belgian colonialist, and that by 1994 the latter’s land title lease had expired 15 years earlier.

A number of people granted themselves land following their repatriation in 1994.

Kagame said although he had a historical connection to the Ntebe land, he did not himself set out to claim its ownership.

The President said that the said land was originally a property of his family members.

But even with that connection, Kagame said, he did not himself set out to reclaim its ownership.

He said that after a group of people including the late Colonel Theogene Bagire identified the land and after establishing that nobody was claiming it’s ownership, they voluntarily approached him (Kagame) and asked him whether he would love to own land.

“I answered them that I too would love to own a home in my country.

A place where I can settle after retiring from your politics,” he said adding that they went on and suggested to him to take up the said land.

Kagame said subsequent to that, he personally inquired on whether there was any person claiming ownership of the piece of land, and found none.

“I formally applied to Minagri requesting for that land and they granted it to me…. I’m one of the few people with a land title,” he said.

The President said the land is not enough for his cows.

He said he has about 100 Frisian cows and a number of other indigenous cattle on the land. He buys natural grass from the locals to supplement the existing grass on the land for the cattle.

He said that he didn’t displace anybody on the said land.

Emphasising that his occupation of the land was not at the expense of residents, Kagame disclosed that he rejected an offer by Gitarama residents who are occupying his ancestors’ land to give it back to him.

“One time I went to Gitarama to see my birthplace and on reaching there I found that residents who had occupied the land of my forefathers had taken a decision to give it back to me. But I said to them no since I did not want to displace them although I legally had that right,” he said.

He made it clear that he will not back off in agitating that people who “unreasonably” own huge chunks of land should surrender part of it especially when they are not duly using it for productive purposes.

Kagame said he would not relent on that cause “even if it means giving it (my land) away.”

He pointed out that it was unacceptable for a leader to grab land from residents, some of whom he said have had to return to neighbouring states.

“Some of them (residents) have again been thrown back (by the countries they have moved to).”

A number of cattle keepers in the former Umutara and Kibungo provices – now in the Eastern Province – have previously went back to Tanzania and Uganda, in search for grazing land.

Tanzania has however expelled a big number of such immigrants.

Last week, the President met with the task force charged with resolving the land issue in the province.

He had called the meeting to get a progress report on the first phase of the exercise which included drawing up lists of big landowners and the sizes of plots they had acquired. Kagame has previously visited Nyagatare District twice to help redress the matter.

The task force reported that work to establish the owners of big plots, their locations and the sizes of the holdings were well underway and would be completed by the September 30 deadline.

It was agreed that the re-allocation of land in the province would kick off next month.

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