Five major changes in the draft land law

Leave a comment / By: manifel / 13 October, 2020 09:35:20AM
Five major changes in the draft land law

cabinet meeting held on Monday, October 12 approved the draft law governing land in Rwanda.

The draft land law, if approved by both chambers of parliament among other procedures, will replace the current one enacted in 2013. 

Below are five major changes that the new bill has. 

1. Subdivision of land 

Subdivision of agricultural, livestock and forests land was prohibited in the 2013 Land Law if the result of such subdivision led to parcels of land below one hectare in size for each of them.

However, in the new draft land law, this subdivision is allowed. This is expected to help citizens, especially farmers, reduce informal land transactions and reduce land disputes originating from shared ownership of land.

2. Land tenure regimes

The new draft land law provides two tenure regimes namely freehold, whereby the owner of the land may use it for any purpose of their will in accordance with local regulations, and emphyteutic lease, usually known by citizens as “ubukode burambye’’.

In the current law, freehold was granted only to nationals on a land of five hectares and to foreigners whose property are located in the designated Special Economic Zone, on reciprocal basis and on co-ownership of land (if at least 51 percent of its stake is owned by Rwandan citizens).

Going forward, nationals will continue to get freehold titles but the size eligible for freehold for nationals has been reduced to 2 hectares per person for efficient and rational use of land. 

For foreigners, freehold grant will be approved by a Presidential Order for exceptional circumstances for strategic national interest.

With regard to the emphyteutic lease for residential and commercial area given to citizens and foreigners acquiring land through private means, the lease period will be increased not more than 99 years compared to the current 20 and 30 years, respectively.

The latter is expected to benefit investors in real estates among others.

Also, citizens with emphyteutic leases requiring renewal, will benefit longer-term leases going forward.

3. State land management

In the new bill, instead of having different public entities owning lands of the government, all State land will be registered to the Government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Environment which is in charge of land.

All other centralized public institutions and decentralized entities will be users of the State land accordingly.

Meanwhile, a Prime Minister’s Order will determine the modalities of use and transfer between Government Institutions.

Additionally, strategic investments on State land by the private sector like buildings for commercial purposes will be granted a specific emphyteutic lease for investment, different from the lease given to citizens.

This will provide investors with specific rights to the land including the right to mortgage the land and activities developed on that land for the period of the lease.

This will, however, be in accordance with relevant laws and the agreement signed with the government of Rwanda.

For other strategic investments like forestry, the private sector will be granted a concession title of not more than 49 years, which will provide the investors with specific rights to mortgage the concession rights corresponding to the period of the concession.

4. Prescription

The current law was based on the civil code provisions to apply prescription on land and is ascertained by a decision of a competent court.

However, the new draft land law confers the power to apply prescription to the registrar of land title based on land committee's reports. This is expected to address the issue of high numbers of court cases related to prescription or limitation on land. 

5. Penalties 

The new draft land law enforces respect of land use plans to support economic growth through proper urbanization and settlement development.

It provides that any permit granted in contradiction with the land-use plan and required standards is null and void and has no effects irrespective of any kind of prescription. 

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