Gashumba Maize Milling Factory, City Council lock horns over wetlands eviction

By Jean d’Amour Mugabo
On 16 November 2017 at 04:48

Kigali-based producer of widely known Gashumba maize flour has called the closure of the factory an “injustice” by the City of Kigali which granted grace period to some other businesses for well over one year to relocate from the wetlands.

The owner of Gashumba milling factory and adjacent buildings hosting three other milling factories located in Gisozi Sector of Gasabo District, Tharcisse Sebukayire, claims to even not be concerned with the ongoing phase of wetlands eviction saying he has settlement permits while the phase concerns those who settled in the wetlands without official permits.

The four maize milling factories on one compound were closed down mid September when Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) the City of Kigali (CoK) flanked by ministers and security forces cracked whip on industrial, business and residential houses located in the city wetlands.

The millers are hitherto guarded by two rotating men to ensure that they do not operate the mills while Sebukayire says the closure has caused him heavy losses as over 200 tonnes of maize in stores he had already acquired before the closure are perishing while he sought at least 10 days to process them but the CoK has rejected his request.

Parfait Busabizwa, the CoK Vice Mayor in charge of Finance and Economic Development, told IGIHE on Wednesday that 39 business owners were granted extension of relocation period ranging from one month to one year but the case of Sebukayire is different because the milling factories were found with poor hygiene conditions among other uncertainties during the crackdown.

“For the maize millers in Gisozi, they have a permit to develop coffee factory but they are milling maize and their poor hygiene also prompted their closure. We have showed them a site cheaper than what they have in Gisozi. They can rent at Rwf300,000 in Kigali Special Economic Zone, the same amount they are renting currently. There are cheap sites but still smart and authorised under the Kigali Master Plan,” said Busabizwa adding that resistance is always there among people when they are told to relocate and some of them even ask for unreasonable relocation period by lying on the reasons.

Busabizwa says small factories can still settle in Nzove and Gahanga sectors while garages have space in Jabana and Masaka.

“They said they found lack of hygiene at one of the plants at this site but why did they close all four milling plants here. Again, the hygiene is not irresolvable, it can be worked on for reopening operations but they never allowed us even a single day to process the maize we have in stores. We are losing much, worrisome losses,” complains Sebukayire adding that he has met with city officials over five times but all in vain.

Who is to be relocated?

The ongoing relocation order concerns properties which were developed in the wetlands after the ban on settling in wetlands in 2005 while those which settled before will be evicted later as the government finds the budget for their expropriation, according to Remy Norbert Duhuze, Director of Environmental Regulation and Pollution Control at REMA.

Duhuze says the relocation will be done on an area of 7,700 hectares of wetlands in Kigali and later reach out to all other parts of the country.

Busabizwa says at least 2,078 properties are concerned with the relocation in Kigali including 1,118 which lack settlement permits and 960 which have the documents and will receive compensation. Gasabo District has the largest number of properties in wetlands standing at 1,448, while Nyarugenge and Kicukiro have 317 and 313 respectively.

He urged property owners to respect the relocation period they were granted “without trying our authority to force them out.” “Those hiding out there, we shall catch them and it will not be good for them. We are fining those who default the order. We work with local leaders and security forces, so it is easy to catch them,” warns the city official.

Rwanda’s wetlands represent about 14.9% of the national territory, including 6.3% for marshes and 8.6% for lakes, rivers and permanent or seasonal fresh water pools.

Four maize milling factories including Gashumba operating in these buildings were banned from operating in September 2017 during the crackdown by REMA and City of Kigali
Over 200 metric tonnes of maize grains are perishing on the compound of Gashumba factory whic was banned from operating since mid September
Settlements in wetlands are relocating. There are over 2000 properties concerned for relocation
Stocks of maize perishing at Gashumba milling factory
Gashumba milling factory has unprocessed tonnes of maize that are trapped inside the factory. The City of Kigali has told them to relocate
There are tonnes of maize everywhere inside the closed Gashumba and three other millers in Gisozi Sector, Gasabo District. Sebukayire says losses are too worrisome to contain