Indigenous easements: Inhabiting the urbanising vision of Rwanda Nouveau

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Following the 1994 Genocide Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali experienced rapid inward migration and informal urban growth. In 2007 the Tutsi-led Rwandan Government devised Vision 2020 that comprised of a Land Management Strategy, Human Settlement policy and a new City masterplan to counter informal growth, transition human settlements away from subsistence farming, in turn reclaiming land as infrastructural assets for urban growth.

This Vision however conflicts with the realities of Rwanda. The geographically smallest, most densely populated country in sub-Saharan Africa Rwanda is the least urbanized country on the continent, with 80% of society dependent upon cultivating land for food and income.

This short paper firstly charts how the Pro-Tutsi Governments Kigali City masterplan is reliant upon the countries regional, rural network of wetlands. Where wetlands are difficult to clear, drain, cultivate and build on, they are presented by the ruling political elite of Rwanda, as vacant and of little economic value. And yet wetlands are the source of hydro-electrical power for Rwanda’s major urban centres, but also of cultural value to indigenous hunter-gather and potter communities; a landscape and resource for wellbeing and livelihoods.

In the second part of this paper, I will present fieldwork with several landless communities living within the Northern highlands of Rwanda. These engagements blend Participatory Action Research (PRA) with architectural conventions of surveying, model making and mapping that, emerging from indigenous experience and knowledge, are presented as alternative ‘infrastructural easements’ from the urbanising vision for Rwanda
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 31 Mar 2021
EventRacial Infrastructures -
Duration: 30 Mar 202131 Mar 2021


WorkshopRacial Infrastructures


  • colonial
  • infrastructure
  • ethnicity
  • land
  • design and technology
  • Rwanda


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