Environment

Eviction by government to send dozens into the street

Residents of Gasenyi area say the government sends them to live in the street because it evicts them from their homes without compensation.

Some of buildings concerned with the measure

Some of buildings concerned with the measure

Residents in the area around the new presidential palace to be evacuated decry threat of forced eviction that ignores their rights to compensation.

“We are not against the government using our land, but we just need compensation so we can continue our lives elsewhere”, says a resident expressing a view shared by many of the residents.

“They are forcing us out of our homes and sending our children and us in the street by not giving us anything to get ourselves new shelters”, says another resident. “Even in the bush one needs a tent”, angrily said another resident.

On Friday morning, police forces were on the ground to “secure the evacuation” following a threat by the Minister of
Environment who had said the government would evacuate them if they did not do it voluntarily by the evening of 6 March.

Residents say they feared the worse when they saw the police and started emptying their homes. The police, however, did not do anything.

The government needs 200 ha around the palace being built on the north-east outskirts of Bujumbura city in Gasenyi area. It is reported that the area was planned to be evacuated in two stages. The first stage would concern 40 ha.

Reports from the area say the problem was caused by a mistake made in the delimitation of the 40 ha, when slightly over 37 ha were delimited and evacuees received money and plots elsewhere as compensation. Residents were also given at least six months to prepare their evacuation.

The government later came and claimed that compensation was given for the entire 40 ha. The current forced evacuation concerns 23 houses that are in the 3 ha. The residents say when the police came in the morning, they advised them not to protest. “Get out of your homes quietly and you will seek lawyers”, a resident reports a police officer as saying.

Residents insist they are not opposed to the government’s plan but that they want the same rights the first evacuees were given. They say they wished to talk with authorities but they were never given any opportunity. “We needed to talk with officials who would reassure us, tell us what to do. But we never saw anyone. We even learned about the threats of eviction on social media and communiqués on the radio”.

Iwacu contacted the Ministry of Environment and the spokesman for the Interior Ministry but they were not available to comment.

The lack of compensation for a new settlement elsewhere is not the only reason why residents are angry.

Some are angry because they voluntarily asked –but in vain- for compensation so they could evacuate together with the first evacuees. Others were building or started building after, but none ever told them to stop.

“My home cost me at least BIF 500 million I borrowed. They saw me when I built but none told me I was building in an area the government would use”, says a woman who was emptying furniture from her two-storey house.

The police were still in the area till mid-day. The public was in suspense, expecting for some dramatic event to take place. But no civil administrative official showed up except two local ones who are not competent to carry out an action of such outreach according to the police.