In 1999, Evariste Muhire in his 30s then, lived in remote Gitarama cell, Nyamabuye Sector of Muhanga district. life was tough and he badly needed to go out of the way and look for greener pastures.
Muhire boarded a bus to Kigali confident that there were more employment opportunities. When he reached in Kigali he began working manual jobs.
However, his income was not enough to sustain him in a rented room. He began saving with the grand plan to build his own house.
One afternoon, Muhire walked around Nyarutarama cell in Remera sector a high-end residential neighborhood and noticed there was a hill and one part of it wasn’t inhabited. This place is called Kangondo I overlooking another high-end neighborhood of Kibagabaga.
“There was a thick shrub and a cemetery. One could even come across wild animals here,” Muhire told KT Press adding that the area had only 8 houses in total at the time.
Muhire inquired about the possibility of getting a plot of land in this area and was surprised to learn it would cost him only Rwf3, 000.
The following morning, he bought a plot where he constructed a two-roomed house and settled there. He later invited friends to buy plots so that he could have neighbours.
Meanwhile as Kigali City was quickly developing, Muhire continued with part-time jobs at construction sites. More people kept coming to settle in Kangondo I.
“By 2007, there was no space left on the hill, not even for a pit latrine— and that was the origin of the name ‘Bannyahe‘ a name coined by residents literally meaning, “Where do dwellers go for nature call” Muhire told KT Press.
“We reached the point where we could not find space for building latrines and we came up with the idea of vacating one room of the house to dig a latrine.”
As kangondo became congested, residents began turning filled up latrines into single rooms and rented them to tenants.
‘Bannyahe’ Must Go
Bannyahe is a slum just next to the high-end residential area of Nyarutarama.
Last week, the city of Kigali announced a plan to relocate residents to a planned and decent neighborhood in Busanza, Kicukiro District, but due to their attachment to this slum, they don’t want to leave.
“We shall miss this neighborhood a lot,” said Sifa, a tailor in Bannyahe.
Pascal Nyamurinda, the Mayor of City of Kigali, said that there are mixed reactions regarding the relocation.
“Some prefer getting expropriation cash rather than a house in the model village we are planning to build for them,” he said.
“Others will even tell you, I like this place and I would love to stay, but the government does not work like that. Kigali is developing and they must pave away for construction of houses according to the city master plan.”
According to Nyamurinda, the city plans to relocate ‘Bannyahe’ slum residents to a planned settlement in Busanza, Kanombe Sector in Kicukiro District by 2019. Construction works will kick start early 2018.
The Executive Secretary of Remera Sector, Jean Sauveur Kalisa says that only 725 people are officially recognized as Bannyahe residents because they hold land titles.
“However, in each plot you find like 5 houses and the slum has more than 3,000 families,” said Kalisa.
Kalisa said the law determines that expropriation may be by offering money or something else with the same value with the object of expropriation.
“So, we negotiated with the district and they have already started the valuation of property. Some will undoubtedly be given residential houses at the model village while others may get money”.
“We have fear that we might give money to these people and the following morning they start a new slum,” he said.
War against slums in Kigali
With a 1.2 million population, the new housing demand in the City of Kigali is estimated at 344,068 dwelling units between 2012 and 2022, and more than 60% are needed for low and middle income earners.
The later have over time built slums which make 60% of the capital city but government wants them off, to pave way for a beautiful green and smart capital city.
In July last year, the Government set up a multimillion fund to help investors venturing in affordable residential houses.
The fund kicked off with $200 million and the Minister of Infrastructures, James Musoni, revealed the amount would “subsequently grow over time.”
In March 2017, the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD) also allocated $267 million to affordable housing projects in the next five years.
With this project, eligible applicants are only those earning from as low as Rwf 40,000 up to Rwf 300,000 monthly and want to build a house for the first time.