Nyagatare happens to be one of the main towns situated in the eastern region of Rwanda. Gakubangutiya is a Mudugudu (village) just outside the town of Nyagatare, approximately 15 minutes walking distance across river Muvumba.
Walking towards the Mudugudu, after the river, one can see a beautiful farm of Friesian cows on the right and on the left hand side the traditional long-horned cows. A few metres away is the Mudugudu in question.
Gakubangutiya is a place that actually developed into a human settlement in 1994. It started as a trading centre with very few people.
“I have 8 children and all of them were born here. It is now our home. I do not imagine leaving it today,” says one of the early settlers of Gakubangutiya.
The Mudugudu became controversial ever since district officials ordered its demolition in December 2008. Residents were however, allegedly given another land to occupy.
The reasons put forward by the administrators to relocate the residents were genuine; It was near the river and a swamp that could be a breeding place for a number of disease-causing agents.
It was in fact, named Gakubangutiya because whenever it rained, one had to raise his or her clothes above knees. Two; for the sake of beautifying the town of Nyagatare, mushrooming slums or shanties would not be allowed.
So where is the problem? The problem lies in the implementation of the whole process. Any development project is done in the interest of the people who must be well informed and sensitized.
This is where things went wrong. Peasants were never consulted, local leaders only sat with their superiors at the district and a decision was taken to relocate the people.
Why do we have to inform and involve the people when we are to take decisions that affect them either negatively or positively?
There is no human being who does not fear change; it is this important concern that we must address whenever we want to make a change. In other words, people in Gakubangutiya are supposed to be involved in the whole process of relocation.
Any change must be people friendly, if it can be workable- without causing controversies. The controversy we are witnessing was caused by lack of consultation and valuing ideas that the residents would have given the authorities.
Under normal circumstances, local leaders or leaders at all levels, should always brainstorm with every level of people in society, so that any final decision is people-based.
Decentralisation in Rwanda, which is at an advanced stage,is all about empowering people from the grassroots to own their problems and development.
If you don’t consult them, then, you are disempowering them. I am sure if people in that Mudugudu were explained why they had to leave, they would not be crying foul.
“They tell me to shift, but this is only where I can earn a living. You know I am at the junction of the roads to Karama and Rwempasha. Besides we are not going to be compensated and the new promise of giving us iron sheets, is not enough,” complained one resident, Samuel (not real names).
The above point of argument is actually weak and myopic, but must be respected, discussed so that sense rules in the long run. This is the point local leaders miss.
Respecting the ‘smallest mind’ in society so that the ‘big one’ can help in a more civilized way-surprisingly, some local leaders at the Mudugudu level seem to get it right.
“Gakubangutiya shouldn’t be an issue to cause alarm, if district leadership really handled it properly; otherwise it would get to a point where people get annoyed,” remarked a Mudugugu leader in Nyagatare who preferred to remain anonymous.
So as the residents wait for a final decision, probably after some further consultation, authorities should think and revise their approaches, while implementing socio-economic development programs that affect people.