At least 2,000 households that fell within the boundaries of the proposed Bugesera International Airport in Bugesera District had been expropriated by the end of last week.
The move paves way for the construction of the long awaited airport, which will greatly enhance the country’s ambitions to become a regional aviation hub.
Property of the households was valuated four years ago.
The expropriated residents, who spoke to The New Times last weekend, said they had already secured land elsewhere and were ready to move to pave way for the airport project.
“It is good news, especially since most of us had been waiting for years and could not do anything on our land because we were waiting to be paid. I am satisfied and have bought a plot of land in Nyagatare District. Others have bought land just near the proposed airport,” said Samuel Ngirinshuti, one of expropriated residents.
The expropriated households are part of the more than 6,000 who are supposed to vacate the area covering 25.6 square kilometres, where the modern airport is to be constructed, with the entire expropriation exercise expected to cost Rwf12 billion.
However, some of the farmers said there were delays in paying them and with the process taking four years, they argued that “inflation should have been taken into account.”
They say the price of land have has since shot up and that the compensation they received is no longer enough.
“Bugesera is developing pretty fast and the price of land has shot up compared to how things were four years ago. A piece of land that was valued at Rwf1 million then can now go for Rwf6 million,” said Apollinaire Bihoyiki, another resident who was expropriated.
He said most people have been forced to move to other places out of Bugesera because land in the district has significantly appreciated.
No rush to buy
Bugesera mayor Louis Rwagaju also agrees that land in the region has appreciated, mainly because of the prospects of an international airport and infrastructure development that has made the district more accessible.
He advised those who have been paid not to rush withdrawing the money, but rather take time to look for new plots and only withdraw when they are ready to pay.
“Their money is safe in the banks. We are not asking them to leave now, they should take time and locate plots in the areas that are within the range of what they have; we still have such areas,” the mayor said.
But some of the expropriated residents claimed they could not find money in the bank.
“For a week, I have been visiting the bank to get my money but I always find my account has not been credited, despite being on the list of people supposedly paid,” said John Mwenedata.
Frank Kobukeye, the in-charge of expropriation and resettlement in the Ministry of Local Government, confirmed there are some delays in effecting payment, but blamed the residents.
“We always advise them (residents) to give clear supporting documents so that they can get paid on time. Otherwise, it takes time to verify those that are not clear, which delays payment process,” he said, adding that all delays have since been sorted.
Kobukeye said by mid-August, all evicted parties (close to 6,000 households) will have been compensated.
He also admitted that what they paid now is not commensurate to the value of land prices today, but said, moving forward, the law on expropriation will soon be amended to make it more flexible.
STATUS OF THE PROJECT
The $700 million international airport will be constructed on a 25.6-square kilometre of land–at least for the first phase–will have the capacity to handle three million passengers annually.
The Minister for Infrastructure, Prof. Silas Lwakabamba, said they are ready to kick-start construction as soon as the people have vacated the area.
Prof. Lwakabamba said they are not worried about the construction budget because the government has already secured all the funds needed for the project without the need for foreign funding.