The Office of the Ombudsman has given its opinion on the issue of evacuation and expropriation of businesses and activities whose owners have considered to be unjustly done.
This comes after members of parliament raised citizen’s concerns over the recent government move to start relocating all persons living and business located in wetlands.
During the presentation of the 2019-2020 Ombudsman report and plan of action – Monday 26, Parliamentarians questioned the Ombudsman, Anastase Murekezi on his plans to address these concerns of which some have created a deadlock between government and citizens.
One of the issues raised was the relocation of business activities located in the former Gikondo industrial zone, in Kigali city, of which some businesses have been compensated while others not.
On this issue, Senator William Ntidendereza said that Government has a designated plan to shift these affected companies to a new area of operation (in the special economic zone) as provided in the Kigali city master plan but the current updates lingered many questions.
Ntidendereza revealed that some of the businesses (23 companies) to date don’t know their fate- if they will be compensated, where they will be shifted and some suspect that they will be asked to shift without compensation.
“The persons involved in this issue raised it to the ombudsman, and we want to know when it will be addressed or what the Ombudsman is thinking of it,” Sen. Ntidendereza said.
The new 2018 law on wetlands doesn’t permit any settlement activities which has since last year been followed by a major campaign to remove all citizens and business located in designated wetlands of which the law only allows for alternatives agricultural activities to be conducted in the wetlands.
The Ombudsman said that he had received the written complaint of the concerned businesses in Gikondo former industrial zone but said the issue is quite different from other wetland issues.
“The remaining (uncompensated businesses) will be compensated but it will not be a compensation on land even though some other businesses were given compensation on land,” Murekezi said.
MP Frank Habineza raised the same issue, saying that relocation of citizens living in high risk settlements remains unresolved and some citizens have not been appropriately compensated.
“Some of the affected citizens have expressed dissatisfaction with the options that they were given to them including the temporary shelter and house rented for them,” MP Habineza said.
Part of this issue has been raised by some of the citizens in the Kangondo 2 zone in Remera sector, Gasabo district who have failed to buy into the idea of being evacuated from the wetlands for a proposed development of an entertainment park.
Though majority have shifted from this area to their designated new homes in Busanza estates, a handful of them have sought legal procedures and sued the city of Kigali and Gasabo district for expropriating them with a value that is allegedly not equivalent to their property.
On this, the Ombudsman said that the government stand is to ensure that no citizen stays in high risk zones including wetlands as a way of avoiding risks of putting lives of citizens in danger.
Murekezi said that if the citizens were settled in high risk zones it is because of mistakes made by local officials who permitted this action but government is concerned of the risks of living in such areas.
“Our take is that they (citizens involved in this issue) should therefore abide by the government policy which is aimed at protecting the environment and avoid putting their lives in danger,” Murekezi told parliament.
Almost the same response was given by the minister of environment, Dr. Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya when she appeared before parliament to respond to issues in her docket.
An issue of delayed expropriation of citizens from wetlands was one of them.