South African telecom giant MTN Rwanda has been given until Friday next week to report back to Parliament with an agreed settlement to a land grabbing case where local villagers have not been compensated for 11 years.
MTN executives appeared this morning in Parliament’s Committee on National unity, human rights and the fight against Genocide.
The team included Chantal Kagame, Chief Business and Corporate affairs Officer; Alain Numa, Head of Corporate affairs, Richard Rutayisire; the Senior Legal and regulatory Officer. Another on the team was Innocent Harerimana from IHS which has since taken over management of telecom towers.
On February 20, The Chronicles detailed the case which shocked lawmakers (CLICK STORY HERE). Locals in Nyamabuye village, Nyamabuye cell, Kagogo sector in Burera District, accused MTN of constructing a road leading to its antennas through their land.
According to a report of this Parliamentary Committee, the telecom itself carried out a valuation of the land and whatever was destroyed.
The compensation was put at Rwf 16,881,010. The community accepted the offer after more negotiations.
However, without the involvement of the residents, MTN apparently returned later with only Rwf 3,107,000. The money MTN paid essentially undervalued the affected community’s losses by more than 80%.
Appearing today in the committee, MTN executives gave a different version of what transpired. They say the agreed amount was Rwf 3,107,000, and that was paid out to the executive secretary of the sector at the time, on behalf of the community.
The MTN team, carrying loads of documents, told the committee that the Rwf 16,881,010 valuation was conducted without their involvement.
As the situation stands now, the affected people say MTN came up with the Rwf16m, and MTN denies any knowledge.
“The first valuation that amounted to Rwf 16,881,010 was carried out in our absence and was not properly stated…it had even same names coming more than one time so we were forced to carry out another valuation which the executive secretary of the sector signed on their behalf,” said Alain Numa, Head of Corporate affairs.
Specifically citing The Chronicles, MTN team also expressed disappointed that the issue had been released to the media yet parliament could have handled it directly with MTN.
They said MTN was ready to go back and find a lasting solution for the case.
When asked to give a concrete way forward, the MTN team said they needed not less than two months to return to the committee with a final settlement.
“We are requesting for two to three months such that we can come up with our solution…,” said Chantal Kagame in a chorus with others.
Unamused, committee chair MP Elisabeth Mukamana dismissed the MTN offer, and directed that MTN engages Burera district and the affected community to worked out how the compensation will be effected.
“No! No! No! It is impossible,” she said. “…that is a lot of time and we want to file our report. This case has lasted more than eleven years. We want your team to submit your plan to us not later than Friday next week.”
That will be on March 8, 2019.
Seemingly irritated, the MTN Team could be heard saying: “We bring the report on a women’s day, ahaa!!!!!”
MTN Rwanda recorded revenue of more than Rwf80billion ($89m) in 2017.