Former city slum-dwellers now have reason to cheer

Sitting in an old sofa at her newly-acquired home in Kigali’s Ituze Hill in Kimihurura Sector, Clotilde Nibagwire has a sharp recollection of the bad old times at her former home in the Kimicanga slum, Gasabo District.
Clotilde Nibagwire and her family at their new home in Ituze, Kimihurura Sector.  The Sunday Times /Eugene Kwibuka
Clotilde Nibagwire and her family at their new home in Ituze, Kimihurura Sector. The Sunday Times /Eugene Kwibuka

Sitting in an old sofa at her newly-acquired home in Kigali’s Ituze Hill in Kimihurura Sector, Clotilde Nibagwire has a sharp recollection of the bad old times at her former home in the Kimicanga slum, Gasabo District.

In Kimicanga, she says, a rainy season meant she would stand by her kids and belongings to protect them from being washed away by floods.

“My bed was always wet because of floods. Kimicanga was disorderly, it was really bad,” says the 48-year-old mother of five.

Nibagwire’s 26-year-old daughter, Jeanette Umuhoza, echoes her sentiments: “It was simply dirty and dangerous,” she says, holding her baby tighter in her hands.

Their former house in Kimicanga had six small bedrooms, a sitting room and a washroom. Kigali City Council paid them Rwf8 million and bulldozed it, and the family relocated to Ituze, where they bought another house at Rwf6.5 million. This one has six small bedrooms, two living rooms, and a washroom.

It’s been nearly two years since Kigali City Council started clearing a 500-house slum in the marshland area of Kimicanga. Some of those who have been compensated have already used the money to buy homes elsewhere and are beginning to settle.

For Nibagwire and her family – her husband and five children, two of whom are adults – the newly-acquired place means they are breathing fresh air. It’s a far cry from Kimicanga, a place they can only describe as ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’, considering the evils that characterised it – robbery, drug abuse, prostitution, fraud, etc.

Having acquired Rwf4.3 billion from the central government, Kigali City Council started the expropriation of Kimicanga to pave way for the development of the area in accordance with the Kigali City Master plan.

The area will be developed into what has been dubbed Kimicanga Entertainment District, which will host a variety of recreational facilities and residential apartments.

The expropriated population will be settled in Jabana, Gisozi, Bumbogo, Gatsata and Nduba in Gasabo District.

“The target is to send people to better areas,” says Lillian Mupende, the director of Kigali Construction One-Stop Centre, which currently helps with construction permits and oversees the planning of the city’s construction.

It is highly challenging work for a city that was occupied with minimum or no planning at all and Mupende describes the city’s expropriation work as a two-fold mission.

“We occupied this city in a bad way and now we have to improve both its habitation and its beauty,” Mupende explained during an interview with this newspaper at her new office at the newly-built Kigali Reinsurance Plaza in downtown Kigali on Thursday.

The challenges include not having enough prepared places where to send people who are expropriated. According to Mupende, Kigali City Council intends to first construct residential houses for those who will be affected by the expropriation.

She says such areas will be in Gasabo and Nyarugenge districts. Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) is set to build 3,000 housing units in Batsinda, Kinyinya, and Gacuriro in Gasabo District in the next three years. And Kigali City, in a joint venture with the housing financial institution, Shelter-Afrique, and the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD), will build residential houses on a 39-hectare land in Akumunigo, Nyarugenge District.

Mupende says the 250 houses in Batsinda, which were built by the RSSB, have been an option for some of the people who were relocated from Kiyovu, Muhima, and of late Kimicanga.

It is in Batsinda where Patrice Sibomana – who was relocated from his one bedroom house in Kimicanga – is now living. Here he bought another one bedroom house at Rwf1.25 million which is more spacious than the one he lived in in “dirty” Kimicanga.

“My kids now have space where to play from. I am happy,” he says.

However, not everyone who moved to Batsinda from Kimicanga is as happy as Sibomana. For Jean Nepomuscene Azabe, who used to run a small retail shop in Kimicanga, doing business in Batsinda is very difficult.

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