Historically marginalised in Musanze appeal for support

A community of 31 families of the so-called historically marginalised persons, formerly living in forests in Musanze District, have appealed for support, saying much as they were helped out of the bushes, they are faced with an acute housing problem.
Nyiranyenyeri stands outside the ramshackle shelter she calls a house.   The New Times/ Seraphine Habimana.
Nyiranyenyeri stands outside the ramshackle shelter she calls a house. The New Times/ Seraphine Habimana.

A community of 31 families of the so-called historically marginalised persons, formerly living in forests in Musanze District, have appealed for support, saying much as they were helped out of the bushes, they are faced with an acute housing problem.

The community was part of the more than 5,000 Musanze families that benefitted from the nationwide campaign against grass-thatched houses that was rolled out a few years ago.

When a 38-year-old Agnes Nyiranyenyeri, a resident of Bisate in Kinigi Sector, was routed from the bushes as part of the anti-Nyakatsi campaign, as the drive to eradicate thatched houses was called, she had the feelings things were changing for the better.

The mother of eight said when they left the bushes in 2011, they were given iron sheets but that is all they could ever get; they had to improvise a shack which they roofed with the donated iron sheets.

However, the majority in this community had lived in the jungle for decades.

Their survival instincts seemed primed to the jungle laws. Putting up a ‘decent’ shelter out of the iron sheets they were provided with has been a chapter of its own.

Mosquito net walls

For some like Nyiranyenyeri, the mosquito nets they were given to guard against malaria-inducing parasites is now the wall for the ramshackle shelter they call houses; they simply wedged woods here and there and hit the iron sheets on them, the rest is mosquito nets.

She said most of them do not even have land to cultivate.

“We live here in the village where we own not even a square metre of land. No one in my family works, meaning we can not get money to complete the house,” she said.

According to Emmanuel Seburanyiga, another member of the community, the only means of survival is to work for other people in the village, either on pyrethrum or potato plantations.

Bad soil

He said what they get from labour goes to feeding because they have to buy everything, and they are left with nothing to complete the houses.

Seburanyiga said their woes are further complicated by the nature of the soil in the area, which cannot produce mud and wattle to plaster the houses.

“The soil in this area is volcanic and to get the mud to use on a house, one has to buy it from Musanze town where it is sold at Rwf35,000 and Rwf50,000 and this is too expensive for us,” he said.

“Since the government tried to integrate us into village life from the forests, they should help us complete our houses because even the iron sheets they gave us are being put to waste by others,” he said.

He added that life becomes difficult at night when it gets windy with the insufficiently covered houses.

“We live near the park where it often rains, we do not know what will happen to us when the heavy rains come in the next few months,” he added.

However, Seburanyiga said they recognise where they were in the past and are happy to live in villages with other Rwandans.

Hope

Since these families were integrated into this village, some have benefited from community work by neighbours who gave them poles to erect their houses but not all the 31 families got the help.

Jerome Mugenzi, the vice mayor in charge of economic affairs in Musanze District, said they are aware of the problem and efforts are being made to ensure that the affected families get decent housing.

“Our wish is to see all people who lived in grass-thatched houses, especially marginalised people, move into decent shelters not later than November,” Mugenzi said.

“The challenge we had was that the region of Bisate where they live does not have soil that is suitable for construction but we have purchased a piece of land from where mud will be excavated and transported to the village to ensure these houses are completed as soon as possible.”

He said dealing with all post-Nyakatsi problems in Musanze is one of their main priority projects this fiscal year.

“If it rains it will be disastrous and that is why we wish to sort this out before the rainy season starts,” he said.

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