The master plan in action [Journey to Rwanda]
Sue Horton, Op-Ed and Sunday Opinion editor of The Times, is in Rwanda on a two-week Gatekeeper Editor fact-finding trip organized by the International Reporting Project. She is chronicling her trip on the Opinion L.A. blog.
Wednesday, Nov. 9: The winding dirt road leading to Koperative Ubumwe Bat'sinda, where about 250 households have been involuntarily relocated from a hillside shanty near downtown Kigali, wasn't made for a bus like ours. But the driver navigated it expertly, staying far enough away from the sharp drop-off at the side that we weren't nervous. People in the small shops that lined the road were curious about us and came out to watch the bus pass. Finally we came to the sign announcing we'd arrived.
As we got out of the bus, we were surrounded by children. Soon their teacher walked up, and we asked him if he knew of a family we could speak to. He started to take us to the community center, but instead Fred Mwasa, the Rwandan journalist who's showing us around, pointed at a house and asked if we could be introduced there.
The woman who answered our knock, Cecile Bagirishya, a mother wearing a "Remember Tutsi Genocide" T-shirt, was a little taken aback at a dozen U.S. journalists standing on her doorstep, but she recovered quickly and was happy to answer our questions. With Fred translating, we asked about the resettlement, one of many planned for Kigali.
People were very angry when they were told they'd have to move, she said. And she said that most people felt the government didn't give them a fair price for their old houses. It's difficult to get to town now and there are no jobs out where they are. Those were the downsides.
But, she added, if she were being honest, she'd have to say things were much, much better now. Before, they had no running water and not everyone had electricity. Now they have both. They also have a health center, which they didn't before. At the community center, they have access to a computer. And the children have a school much closer to them than before.
I don't know whether the government will be able to manage every resettlement as well, but this one seems to have made people happy.
Photos, top to bottom: The sign announcing that we'd arrived at the new settlement of Koperative Ubumwe-Bat'sinda for people relocated from a hillside near downtown Kigali;
Our arrival in Koperative Ubumwe Bat'sinda generated a lot of interest from the locals;
A mother at that settlement;
Not only do the houses have running water (at a tap outside); they also have large plastic cisterns to catch rainwater to use for irrigating the kitchen garden, which each house is required to plant.
Credit: Sue Horton