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Mostly Maurice (also see Squatter City), 2 August 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.


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