August 11, 2020

Government is Selling off ‘Abandoned Properties’ in Kigali Some of it said be for Exiles

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Most of the property up for sale is located in Kigali city center

Government body charged with keeping property said to be abandoned, has put up notice intending to sell some of them located in Kigali.

The Kigali branch of the Commission in charge of Abandoned Property, in a notice issued this Monday, announces the impending auction of 28 properties located in Nyarugege district, a prime part of the capital. The properties are said to be in poor condition and in case the owners don’t show up, will get new owners to redevelop the sites.

A 2004 law gave government full custody over such properties, including land and buildings. These properties usually belong to exiled politicians and alleged genocide fugitives – whom the authorities say could have used the revenue from these properties to fund ‘subversive activities’.

For example, there have been reports that members of the FDLR militia in DR Congo were still getting cash from their property.

Since the law giving government ownership of such properties came into force, many have been identified, and the government collects rent from them. As per the law, at least on paper, if the owner of the property declares themselves with proof, the government is expected to automatically hand it back to them within 60 days. There is no record of such handovers.

Latest data from the agency in charge of these properties show that countrywide there are total of 1,166, including 353 houses, 47 pieces of land, 674 crop farms, 10 animal farms, 77 forests, one petrol station and four factories.

Among the high profile properties said to have been abandoned is the iconic $20m Union Trade Center shopping mall in the heart of Kigali built by exiled tycoon Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa. Government accuses him of financing the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) of ex-army chief Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa based in South Africa.

UTC was auctioned in a hasty sale in September 2017 for Rwf 6.8billion (about $7m). Rujugoro has vowed in foreign media interviews that whoever bought it be prepared to hand it over when government changes.

Another of such property belongs to Felicien Kabuga who was recently arrested in France. Other exiled politicians have also made it clear anyone taking charge of their property is wasting time as they will get it back.

For those due for auction in Nyarugege district, the sale notice shows exact location of the property. Viewing is set beginning this Tuesday August 11 to September 3. The following day, interested parties are to deliver their offers to the commission, which will later communicate the new owners.

The notice announcing the latest auction and listed properties

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