Of the many quotable quotes usually cited from the book ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell, the most common is probably that “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others”.
Findings of a recent informal survey carried out on accommodation in Kigali city, revealed a growing disparity between the upscale residential areas and the lower scale ones or slums. The hypothesis was that the rich were becoming richer and the poor poorer.
According to residents of Biryogo slum at the fringes of Nyamirambo, rent ranges between Rfw1500 and Rfw2000 per month. In sharp contrast, it was estimated that rent from some of those upscale houses in Nyarutarama, upper Kiyovu, and Kimihurura, were as high as two million Rwandan francs per month.
Alex Kanobana, 45, is one of those tycoons, and he recently occupied his villa in Nyarutarama. He, however, believes that wealth is good, but it’s not a worldwide round robin of purse snatching.
“If we want the whole world to be rich, we need to start loving wealth. People should love work, and learn how to plan for their future.”
Kanobana reminds that one common thing that makes one person rich doesn’t necessarily favour another. “Without productivity, there can’t be development. We can’t sit back and expect miracles to be performed,” he said. “Wealth is based on productivity, and productivity is hard and successful efforts.”
Despite all to that, we cannot veil the fact that the situation of the poor in Rwanda is likely to remain a mystery to the rich, with the exception of those few well-off with humble social backgrounds, and perhaps became rich as a result of certain stroke of luck.
Juliet Umulisa, 40, is a Rwandan thriving businesswoman, who owns two stores in Kigali’s commercial centre. She says that the issue of poverty needs to be addressed by the government.
In Kimisagara and Biryogo, the agony on the faces of these underprivileged people is evident. It takes time before they can even gather the courage, let alone the energy, to reveal the sorrowful reality of their lives.
Nyirahabimana Marinette is a single mother living with her seven children in Gikondo sector of Kigali. She divulges her heartfelt story. She pays Rfw1500 a month for rent, money earned from vending fruits downtown.
Her mud and wattle house has a leaking roof made of red-brown iron sheets. “The leaks on rainy nights make it nearly impossible to get a good sleep,” says Nyirahabimana. The door is unstable, and the walls riddled with holes. It neither has electricity nor piped water.
Camille Marara, the engineer in charge of housing in the Ministry of Infrastructure, confirms that the issue of slums is not new and has not gone unnoticed.
He divulges that the government had designed a plan to increase the number of communal settlements in the country so as to resettle the poor people who live in unacceptable conditions. In so doing, this will raise the living standards of the poor.
In December last year, it was decided that each house in the country has to be built according to the Master Plan, in order to get rid with the issue of slums, not only in Kigali city, but countrywide.
According to Andrew Kagabo, in charge of the Finance Department in the Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs, and acting as the Secretary General in the Ministry, confirms that strategies have been put in place to solve the situation.
The Ministry has initiated a programme called ‘Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme, which Kagabo says is focusing on the underprivileged class in the country.
“We provide them with jobs, but also sensitize them on how to get loans from the micro finance banks, in order improve on their standards of living.”
Poverty is a scourge that hinders development, economic growth and the achievement of the country’s prosperity.
Although it may be true that some animals are more equal than others, it is imperative to level the ground and raise the level of equality, so that even the ‘less equal’ enjoys basic human needs, first of these being the right to a dignified life.