Raze the damn buildings. As the great Confucius says, “you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs”. Oh, and while you’re at it, stop torturing the Ghaddafi’s

I visited the ultra-modern Kigali City Tower last Saturday and did a spot of shopping at the newly opened Nakumatt in the building. Even though it’s not totally finished it’s obvious that this building is well on its way to being a Kigali icon- kind of the way the Sears Tower is a symbol of Chicago. Kigali City Tower is swanky, modern and promises to bring something new to the local scene, either through enhanced shopping experiences, job opportunities and entertainment. I know for a fact that this one building will see thousands of people walk through its doors on a daily basis; I certainly will be one of the multitudes. However, there is one problem that I think needs immediate attention.
Anyone that has lived in Kigali for longer than a month knows that Saturday morning is the one time you can be assured of ample parking in the city centre. Or is it? This maxim, which I had always thought was factual, was found to be faulty. I could barely find parking space and there were traffic bottlenecks right in front of the Rubangura building. Let’s imagine the scenario where the thousands of people shopping and working at the City Towers try to drive towards it; the road will become gridlocked and chaos will ensure. And truth be told, this area isnt the only one that will suffer this plague; I can see the entire Kigali Central Business District in similar gridlock.
The reason for the gridlock is similar, no matter where you go. The original architects of Kigali’s road system never envisioned the day when the city could have up to a million inhabitants, with tens of thousands of vehicles. Now, Kigali is becoming a metropolis in the true sense of the word but the problem is that it still has the road network system (at least downtown) of a town, not a city. I have a solution for this, road extension and to hell with the consequences. While whole-scale road extension will mean razing down buildings right, left and center (with the high costs of expropriation thrown in for good measure) I cannot, for the life of me, see another way forward. The status quo is simply not going to work, either in the middle or long-term. In fact, it barely works today.
While some will say that I’m being draconian, I can only see one other alternative. Kigali City Council (KCC) can demarcate certain areas in the Central Business District as car-free zones. That way, they won’t have to spend money increasing road size and paying expropriation fees. The only problem with this solution is that it would be totally unworkable. How would people get close enough to the Business District to walk to work? Where would they park their vehicles? And how would the city residents receive the news? I doubt that the taxpaying citizens would allow such a proposal to see the light of day.
So, to cut this long story short, I’m urging KCC to bite the bullet, raise a few billion francs, talk to the various building owners, expropriate about ten meters of property on both sides of the road, call out earthmoving equipment and extend the roads. In the short term there will be a huge hue and cry from everyone and their uncles, but in the longer term it will be totally worth it in terms of making Kigali the kind of city that its inhabitants deserve to live in.
On a totally different topic, I learnt that Saif al-Islam Ghaddafi, the late Colonel Muammar Ghaddafi’s son, was captured yesterday by Libyan Transitional Council while attempting to flee to Niger. All I can hope and pray is that he will be treated more humanely than his father was and if he is to be put to death, let it be at the end of a court procedure and not by the hand of a trigger happy militiaman.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s