Better days in sight for high risk zone dwellers

About eight kilometers off Kigali- Rwamagana high way, a dusty road leads to a line of half-complete, brown- brick rectangular structures. 

About eight kilometers off Kigali- Rwamagana high way, a dusty road leads to a line of half-complete, brown- brick rectangular structures. 

Though the place is quiet, and looks almost deserted, signs of ongoing construction work are visible. Piles of stone aggregate, sand and bricks are visible even from a distance—announcing a huge construction project at its advanced stages in this area. 

This is Rusheshe village, Masaka sector in Kicukiro district—the proposed relocation site for about 32 families currently living in a high risk zone in Kigali. The smell conjured here in this village a blend of fresh and baked soil. 

“For a long time we have been constant victims of water borne diseases , so the fact the government is relocating  us to a safer and planned settlement , is a highly welcome move” notes Gasarasi  Juvenile 60 , who lives in Gashiha wetland in the outskirts of Kigali City.

Kambanda Theobald, 57, a retired police officer and a resident of the same area also couldn’t hide his excitement over the development. “As a sickly old man, taking me away from this exposure to a dirt and disease-free environment will be a heaven sent deed.”

The project run by Kicukiro District Administration in collaboration with the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDMAR), started in late August and is expected to be complete by December this year, officials say.

Out of the 32 planned houses for each family, eight are already erected and roofed. Each unit is made up of four, comparatively spacious rooms, a medium sized back yard extension of what looks like servant’s quarters (or boy’s quarters) that houses a kitchen, store and toilet. The houses also have small plots of land at the back meant for kitchen gardens.

Compared with their current area of residence, Rusheshe village is, by any standards, an up market neighbourhood that can be liked by anyone who desires good living. 

“These people were originally strongly opposed to the relocation idea, but after taking them on an inspection tour of the proposed site, their attitude changed immediately,” says Rutijana Aimable, the in charge of social affairs at Kicukiro District.  

He adds that their current area of residence is accident-prone, since it’s difficult to put up a strong structure on the mushy ground.

“Though no one has died yet, we do not want to wait for disaster so as to relocate these people. Already there are enough reports of collapsing buildings elsewhere,” he added.

Kambanda agrees that during the rainy season, it’s difficult to sleep at night, either because of mosquito bites or flooded houses.

Rwabulindi Josephine, the in charge of social affairs at Masaka sector also in Kicukiro District, points out that the district authorities have gazzeted a big chunk of government land that will be rented out for cultivation and plans are underway to donate cows as part of the resettlement package for the people .

When asked about chances of these people getting survival means in the new environment, she responds: “Actually this proposed area of resettlement gives them better chance to turn their lives around socially and economically since it is surrounded by blossoming satellite towns like Masaka, Kayonza and Rwamagana, its easier to find a good job here or start a business than where they are now.” 

She adds that however, that it won’t stop those who are already employed in Kigali from keeping their jobs, since a taxi ride to town costs Rwf 250 only.

This village is connected to electricity and water, has a general commodity market, health centre and three schools in the vicinity. This means that the new residents will not miss any social amenities.

“Now that they will be living in an organised settlement, sensitizing them to participate in government programmes like immunization won’t be difficult. It also motivates government to avail more services for them,” Rwabulindi added.  

Those to be resettled are excited about their new homes and say they will not miss anything from their current swampy village.

“Since the whole community will be moved, we won’t feel isolated since the neighbours will be the same,” said a beneficiary.

According to Rutijana, the relocation process will start immediately the houses are complete. “Our prayer is that the construction process gets done as planned, otherwise the people can’t wait longer,” he concludes. 

Resettling people from high risk zones in safer places is a national project in which the government plans to spend about Rwf3 billion to construct 18,000 housing units for vulnerable Rwandans.

Beneficiaries had initially been estimated at 43,000 country-wide but 13,000 were identified as capable of constructing houses for themselves.