KIGALI / GENEVA (13 July 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, today highlighted the issues of resettlement of people and land reform as two of the main challenges for the consolidation of peace and stability in Rwanda.
“The processes of displacement and resettlement of people that are taking place in the context of the ‘villagization’ policy in rural areas and the implementation of urban planning in Kigali have to be handled very carefully, if they are to consolidate peace, stability and reconciliation in Rwanda,” stressed the UN independent expert at the end of her first official mission to the country.*
Ms. Rolnik commended the Government for its initiatives in the areas of land reform, but warned that insufficient room for challenging decisions taken in the processes of land registration and titling could create tensions in the long run. “I call on the Government to make sure that implementation of the land consolidation policy is conducted on the basis of the human rights values of consultation and participation,” she said. “Involvement in land consolidation projects must be voluntary and in no way based on coercion.”
The Special Rapporteur also pointed out the many limitations to freedom of expression and association faced by housing advocates in the country. “If the Rwanda 2020 Vision is to be achieved and made durable, the Government must provide more space for participation, for the operations of NGOs and other civil society organizations, and for freedom of expression. This would help it receive more genuine feedback on its policies and programmes,” she stressed.
“As far as housing is concerned, land consolidation has the potential of improving the living conditions of people in planned and organized settlements,” the rights expert said. “There is however the risk of making consolidated lands more attractive to agribusinesses, with the possible consequence of concentration of land ownership in rural areas, and of increased migration to urban settlements.”
The Special Rapporteur acknowledged the Government’s “impressive capacity of planning and implementing its policies, reaching out to communities in the most remote areas of the country.” However, she said, “it is my wish that this vision is realized in a way that is sustainable, and does not leave any Rwandan behind.”
During her nine-day fact-finding mission to the country, Raquel Rolnik met with Government officials at the highest level, as well as with representatives of civil society organizations, independent researchers and academics, and UN agencies.
Ms. Rolnik visited inhabitants of several neighbourhoods in the capital Kigali. She also visited villages in the countryside that are being set up in the context of the villagization policy of imidugudus, and discussed with inhabitants the impacts of this policy on their housing and living conditions.
The UN Special Rapporteur will present detailed observations and recommendations on her mission report in a forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council.
(*) Read the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12345&LangID=E
Raquel Rolnik (Brazil) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2008. Her mandate was renewed in 2011. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/HousingIndex.aspx
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