Saturday, August 02, 2008

Poor Kiyovu

The City of Kigali has decided that poor people don't belong in the central residential district, Kiyovu. The area known as "Poor Kiyovu", to differentiate it from "Rich Kiyovu", has now been almost completely bulldozed. The displaced residents will be compensated according to a government valuation of their land. The government is presumably trying to make way for new urban developments. It is turning the heart of the city into a reserve for the rich and destroying its social and cultural diversity. Poor Kiyovu used to look something like this (from another part of Kigali):


It now looks like this:





The New Times quotes the Mayor of Kigali who says that the city had no choice to move these people, because they are poor:

Since July last year, we made it clear that we are going to shift these people from Kiyovu because of the unfavorable conditions under which they were living.

Even the pro-government New Times reports on the views of the unhappy residents:

Some of the evicted residents who were relocated have reportedly refused to accept the money and terms offered to them by the City Council and are crying foul about the whole procedure. ... Many claim that they were not given ample time to prepare for the shifting and are not happy with the amount being given to them as compensation for their premises and where they have been relocated.

Last week, I spoke to my friend, K. (name changed), a musician who lived in Poor Kiyovu. The government valued K's house. K disagreed about the price, refused the payment and had another expert come to value the house. The second valuation was higher. One day, K's house was gone. It was demolished while he was away, he had not received any payment at all and he lost food and possessions in the house as it was demolished. He is still arguing with the MVK, the city mayoral office. The mayor responds to the New Times :

"If these people had accepted to go where they were relocated, then they would not be suffering and in any case the expropriation act does not say that we have to transport food to the eviction site"

If only the pesky poor people would do as they are told.

It seems that the government wishes to engineer a city in which Kigali residents and delicate-stomached foreigners will no longer have to suffer vulgar displays of poverty in the city centre.

Its a loss for the city. These people were a major part of the life of the city centre. A much better strategy would have been for the city to have improved the property rights laws and infrastructure in poor Kiyovu to promote its development. Shame on the City of Kigali.

6 comments:

general said...

Maurice,
Thank you for this post and also the one on Morgan's. I agree wholeheartedly that the city of Kigali executed this poorly. Since they are carrying out the national policy, you can bet that this is only the beginning. If you have seen the new Kigali master plan by an Oregon planning firm, you can tell that the vision for the future city is based on razing most of the urban informal settlements and building high-rises for transnational corporations. It is not sustainable at all. The difficult thing is that the way people live in Rwanda right now does not seem sustainable either. In the countryside there are simply too many people on not enough arable land. In the urban informal settlements houses do not meet the safety codes, built on extreme slopes with no infrastructure or erosion control, built with poor materials, and strangely enough, they are not dense enough: they are all 1 story buildings which could be built up to 3-4 stories to accommodate more people and bring down costs. Engineers Without Borders who worked on the new Kigali master plan did have ideas about providing infrastructure to existing urban settlements, and it was very promising. But we know that those settlements are growing and taking over the city in uncontrolled, unsustainable way that we need an alternative to housing the poor. Have you seen any examples of innovative housing developments? Yutaka

Maurice said...

Do you know the name of the Oregon planning firm?

The answer to your question is: Yes. The DED (German Development Agency) is working on a low-cost housing project together with the City of Kigali. In particular they are looking for cheap ways to make bricks, e.g. compacted soil. However, these houses are still quite expensive (hundreds of dollars before finishing, wiring and other final works). The other problem is that the settlements are too far away from the city centre.

And since you mentioned Morgan's blog, I should include the link:
http://morganinafrica.blogspot.com/2008/07/gentrification-of-kigali.html
and while I'm at it a link of another related post:
http://squattercity.blogspot.com/2008/08/rwandas-capitals-crime.html

general said...

They are OZ architects. You can see a little bit of the plan on their website
http://www.ozarch.com/
But I have the complete master plan in pdf form. It's big so I'm not sure how I can get it to you though...
I'll look up DED. We are trying to work with SERUKA, an NGO in Kigali, to help build a housing community for their members who are genocide widows. They have built one in Masoro already, and, though super low cost therefore still inadequate, thoughtful in terms of capacity building. I hope you would look them up.

Anonymous said...

The new Masterplan does not want to race any existing neighborhood! It recommends upgrading by introducing minimal infrastructure to ensure basic living conditions. It concentrates on the guidance to the expected future urban growth.

ghkj said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris Huggins said...

Congratulations on an excellent couple of articles. There is really no excuse for the actions of the KCC because, as other bloggers have pointed out, the Government of Rwanda has had plenty of support in land tenure and housing issues from donors, especially DFID, DED, and USAID. I got into these issues a little in some comments on a rather naive view of land problems in Rwanda: http://opiniojuris.org/2009/03/23/mobilzing-the-rwandan-church-to-protect-human-rights/#comments