By David Himbara
As indicated in the attached letter from Rwanda’s Prime Minister, Anastase Murekezi, President Paul Kagame has ordered every public servant in Rwanda to stop renting out their properties.
This is a total disaster for Rwanda’s tiny middle class, including even Kagame’s ministers, senators, judges, parliamentarians, senior public servants, heads of agencies, security service officers, doctors and teachers. Because of low salaries in Rwanda and the high cost of living, especially in Kigali, most people depend on rental incomes on their properties.
It is these rental incomes that most families depend on to pay for their children’s school fees. And because of the poor quality of education in Rwanda’s public schools, parents who can afford it use rental earnings to put their children in private schools. These private schools include First Lady Jeannette Nyiramongi Kagame’s Green Hills Academy in Kigali.
Kagame’s Order has another serious implication – it will destroy Rwandan banks. Almost all rental properties owned by members of Rwanda’s tiny middle class were acquired with bank loans. If incomes from these properties dry up, their owners will not be able to maintain mortgage payments. The massive default on loans will negatively impact Rwanda’s tiny financial markets.
It appears that Kagame is turning on everyone. His senators. His parliamentarians. His ministers. His military officers. His senior managers. His doctors. His teachers. And evidently, Rwanda’s banks.
A question must be posed here: why is Kagame doing this?
I can think of three reasons. The first is this. We know that in his drive to modernize Kigali, his ruling party conglomerate, Crystal Ventures Ltd, built properties. Kagame also persuaded private companies to invest in Kigali’s real estate. But most of these properties are overpriced – which has resulted in low occupancy.
By driving renters from more affordable properties, Kagame hopes to fill up the largely empty office towers in Kigali.
The second reason I can think of revolves around Kagame’s own lifestyle. Because he lives an imperial life of $60 million Gulfstream jets, $20,000 a night presidential hotel suites, and educates his children in American elite schools, he may perhaps imagine that other Rwandans live like him.
The third reason is Kagame might be mean-spirited – determined to restrict the size of the middle class to himself.
Will this declaration of war on Rwanda’s tiny middle class solve Kagame’s heap of contradictions that he calls “policy”? But at what cost? One thing is for sure. The emperor is naked. And the naked emperor is against the very people he needs to live comfortably and govern.
Kagame just shot himself, methinks.