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From unplanned settlement to new housing development in Kigali city: the case study of Amahoro cell, Muhima sector

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par John MUGISHA
National University of Rwanda - Bachelor's degree 2011

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4.1 Relocation experience in Ubumwe cell

The undergoing implementation process of the master plan suggests either on site-upgrading and/or urban renewal planning i.e. resettlement in some areas depending on how badly they are affected or how important they are, for other developmental activities. Implementation of the master plan started with zoning of some parts of Kigali city especially those on prime land but poorly developed areas.

Among the zoned areas for renewal is Ubumwe cell, in Muhima sector, in Nyarugenge district ( part of the central business district) of Kigali city whose land will be predominantly commercial, mixed with high-rise residential and institutions according to the master plan, as opposed to the existed informal settlement (figure 1). Residents of Ubumwe cell were expropriated and resettled in Batsinda housing estate in Kinyinya sector (Gasabo district). In Ubumwe cell, 336 households were expropriated. Adoption of the master plan happened to be the origin of Batsinda project which was started by Kigali city council in collaboration with the Rwanda social security board (RSSB) and Rwanda Housing Bank to handle the resettlement process and develop the land which was taken to be a waste land due to informal settlements in the area.

Figure 3: Image of Ubumwe site before clearance

Source: RNRA/lands and mapping department

Batsinda housing project was (still is) targeting low, medium, and high-cost housing, $10,000 being the maximum for low-cost and$30,000 being the maximum for medium-cost. The first phase established 250 single-family, low-cost homes and this was finished with people already relocated into Batsinda houses from Ubumwe cell. However, only 123 former Ubumwe dwellers accepted to be relocated out of 250 Batsinda phase I houses (49%), the remaining 127 houses were given to other vulnerable groups like soldiers, demobilized soldiers and teachers due to their low income level (Esther, 2009).

The cleared site of Ubumwe cell is now being serviced by providing roads, street lamps and other basic physical infrastructures (photo 1). Some buildings are being raised while other plots are still vacant. This redevelopment seems to be slow since there are now 3 years after the relocation of the residents on that site. According to one of the sector officials in charge of infrastructure and land management, the redevelopment is relatively slow because the parcels are very expensive. But the city council says that the parcels are expensive because of the great expenditures made in servicing land and providing infrastructures

Photograph 1:Current situation of the cleared site of Ubumwe

Source: taken by author, October 2011

4.2 Existing situation of Amahoro cell

4.2.1 Nature of housing

Houses in Amahoro cell are generally characterized by high density, old roofs and are built with unsustainable materials.

Parcels in this area are very small to the extent that in most cases the house occupies the whole parcel space with no room for extension, improvement or for other domestic purposes. Most parcels were acquired before 1990 (65%) and most houses were constructed during this period. Another massive acquisition of the parcels and construction of new houses occurred between 1995 and 2000 (refer to table 4).

This was the period of the aftermath of genocide and liberation war during which Rwandese refugees that had fled the country since 1959 and years after, returned to their mother land and had to acquire vacant land for their establishment since most of them were born and grew in exile and had no land in the country. The acquisition of land parcels occurred illegally without prior planning, and in most cases involved dividing the existed land parcels without respecting minimum parcel size hence creating a slum. Since 2006, the rate of acquiring new parcels in the area and construction of new houses is very low. This is due to the establishment of the new policies (land policy, 2005 and Kigali master plan, 2007) that restrict further illegal housing development.

Table 4: Periods of plot acquisition in surveyed households





When was the plot acquired?

























Source: survey, 2011

N.B only 57 households responded to this question out of 100 that were asked

Building materials of the houses are unsustainable and old. The roofing materials (100% iron sheet) have changed their original color due to rust as a result of long time exposure to elements of rusting without replacement. Most iron sheets disintegrated and the owners use stones or other high-density materials to support them (see photo 2).

Photograph 2: Stones supporting old iron sheets

Source: Author, 2011

Walls of most houses are built in mud bricks (53%), 28% in earth and wattle, 15% in burnt bricks and the remaining 4% in cemented blocks (figure 5).

Figure 4: Type of building materials of walls of houses

Source: Household survey 2011

According to the regulations of Kigali city council, no house upgrading that involves changing its shape and size that can be made without written authorization from the relevant officials at the district. This, together with poverty, has restricted upgrading by some residents and their houses are wearing out and slowly falling down (photo 3).

Photograph 3: A house gradually falling down

Source: Author, 2011

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