The Kigali City Masterplan

Depending on your viewpoint, the Kigali City Masterplan, which was launched in February 2009, is either an ambitious, forward thinking, grand vision for the Rwanda of the 21st Century or an “insanely ambitious” folly that makes a castle in the sand look like a wise investment.

Regardless of which side of the argument your sympathies lie, the Kigali of today (see above) is certainly a long, long, long, long way from the utopian vision of the near future presented in this video – which begins with the question:

“Will you believe me, if I show you?”

For anyone living in Kigali, the Dubai-esque vision presented in the video is both a jaw dropper and a head scratcher. Included are a number of eyebrow raising moments, for expats at least;

  • white people on horseback, white people jogging and white people rock climbing. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t know any white Rwandans.
  • the phrases “A Home for everybody” and “Employment for everybody”. Is there a city anywhere in the world that can honestly make that claim and keep a straight face?

Then there’s the worry about who is going to build it all. The Chinese? The South Koreans?  Lastly, there’s the thorny issue of housing and the poor.

The only segment of the video that features an image of the poorer neck of the Kigali of today is the one above. In the video, this is scrubbed away to reveal what looks like a mansion house.

Are the people who currently live in these “informal housing areas” going to be rehoused in mansion houses? I don’t think so. It’s not clear if these people fit into the Kigali City Masterplan at all. Can the poor become part of the “new Rwandan urbanite” set envisaged in the video?

Given the scope of the grandiose plan, it’s surprising how little space the people who are at most risk from its implementation get in the local press.

Just this week one report refers to the clearing of “unauthorized and poorly constructed houses” in Kimisagara Sector, Nyarugenge District of Kigali. However, there is no mention of the fate of the people currently living in those “unauthorized and poorly constructed houses”.

In an interview with Nyarugenge District Mayor, Theophila Nyirahonora, she revealed that some people take it upon themselves to construct houses without the government’s consent, and in some cases build in unauthorized places.

She said that these people not only expose themselves to natural disasters, but also tarnish the image of the country, adding that this will not be tolerated.

The Mayor added that all houses that were built without permission would be demolished with the aim of streamlining and fulfilling the government and city plan, notably the Kigali City Master Plan. link

Meanwhile, the Police were briefed this week on the masterplan and “security guidelines”,

Kigali city Mayor, Aisa Kirabo Kacyira has appealed to the Rwanda National Police (RNP) to partner with the city in creating awareness of the Kigali Master Plan and in ensuring that all the security guidelines in its implementation are honoured. link

There is a precedent to this mass clearing. The “poor” area of Kiyovu was cleared in the summer of 2008. The inhabitants were compensated. Indeed, some received more compensation than they expected. However, almost three years later, the area of Kiyovu they used to live in remains completely undeveloped.

Take a look at the Kigali City Masterplan for yourself. Grand ambitious vision for a thriving Rwanda of 2060? Or a castle built on Kigali sand?

Photograph of Kigali at the top taken from Flickr.

16 Responses to “The Kigali City Masterplan”

  1. Pierre says:

    Why should Rwandans even try? Poverty is their destiny.

  2. Anon says:


    That’s not what he’s saying at all. He’s saying that fighting poverty requires realistic and thoughtful solutions, not idle dreaming. Maybe the Kigali master plan is realistic but why can’t one ask what happens to the people (rich, poor, in the middle) whose neighbourhoods will be changed quite radically? In fact, aren’t those precisely the sort of questions that will lead to a realistic master plan? Why does every possible criticism of the current governments’ plans for Rwanda result in such an absolute dismissal? Is the place governed by gods? Is the Rwandan government incapable of a few mistakes?

  3. Pierre says:

    But that’s the point of development. To get rid of the poor people. The people will still exist, I hasten to add (before the NYT and the Guardian get too excited) but just … less poor. It’s a development thaing. That’s what’s being aimed at, see. The Chinese government have been moving their poor people around … and it seems to be working. The poor people seem to disappear after a while when you really get into this development thing. Four hundred million people lifted out of poverty by moving the poor people around in China, last time I checked. Don’t know what it is about moving them — but it works! 😀

  4. Bruno says:

    The Kigali master plan is a realistic plan and it is achievable. This plan has even started being implemented. Visit the one stop centre for construction permits house in Nyarugenge district offices and the will show you areas where low cost houses are being built. The Master plan is not for only the rich but also low income earners.

  5. kigaliwire says:

    Thanks Bruno. I will make a point of visiting the one stop centre.

    However, there is still concern over how the “unauthorized and poorly constructed houses” are to be dismantled and the provision given to those currently living there.

    Even The New Times has questions,

    “the reality is that, authorized or not, these houses are constructed under the very noses of the authorities. That officials, especially those at the grassroots level, indifferently watch as residents – desperate to own a home or a business premise – put up these houses, only for the former to descend on them with bulldozers when they are already complete and in use, is highly disturbing.”

  6. Pierre says:

    Graham, I see you saw fit to include Filip Reyntjens’ perspective in your publication. Why would you do something like that?

  7. kigaliwire says:

    I don’t have to agree with everything I link to Pierre…

  8. Pierre says:

    I read through it all. Do you think he represents a legitimate perspective? Or do you think by giving genocidaires (whether they’re black or white) equal time you’re being neutral?

  9. kigaliwire says:

    Equal time? It’s just one link out of (to date) 2431.

    I have not read it in its entirety, but I will do.

    If you have a blog or other online outlet, go ahead and rebut the study. I’ll be happy to link to you too.

  10. Pierre says:

    Shame on you!

  11. kigaliwire says:

    Just a gentle reminder from the About page –

    “Any intelligent criticism you have is welcome. Gibberish is not and will be erased. I’m also averse to anonymous comments.”

  12. Pierre says:

    Why clamp down on my freedom of speech? Do you want me to report you to Reporters Without Borders? Sounding tyrannical, Bro.

  13. Anon says:

    I am working my way through the Reyntjens piece. I do not agree with him but I do not think his pieces should be banned from KigaliWire. A comprehensive rebuttal would take more time than I have but I have made one comment on his article on the vocational school photo story comment section. The way to deal with Reyntjens surely is to argue with him. Anyway any Rwandans who can access the internet can read his writings and this will apply to more in the future once the fibre optic network is connected and there are more places where people can go online.

  14. Pierre says:

    But the guy (Reyntjens) is clearly a crackpot. Giving legitimacy to crackpots means that more time and effort must be put to “rebutting” them at the expense of other actions that are more productive. The pace of progress and development is thereby hobbled and slowed down. For example, it was time-consuming for me to read all that. That was time I could have been using to do something else. One of these anti-Kagame crackpots had, with all seriousness, a picture on his website of Kagame seeing off the early batch of Rwandan troops going to Sudan then in their desert-camouflage fatigues; and behind him was an arrow the owner of the website had put confidently showing the current president of the Congo walking a few steps behind Kagame in uniform as an officer of the rank of lieutenant or something. This picture would have been around 2004 or something like that — well, when Rwandan troops were first being sent to the Sudan at any rate. But yet as far as this anti-Kagame crackpot was concerned — there was Kabila himself in the photo, only a few steps behind Kagame, in Rwandan army uniform, following him in servile fashion!

    How giving these crazies prominence and legitimacy is supposed to help things progress and move forward — I don’t know!

  15. Joie Pirkey says:

    As I watched the video I found myself vacillating from “Creepy.” and “Are you kidding me?” to “I am proud of them for thinking big” and “Hey you got to set your standards high to achieve something like this”. I am not sure where I have landed yet as thoughts keep popping up but I’ll tell ya one thing, someone has a vision and without a vision people parish.

  16. FRED says:

    Good plan 4 sure but i don’t know if there is a map 4 restricted zones to be built on in Nyarugenge.If there is show us the map 4 more comments