Connecting Spatial Justice to Land Tenure Security

Spatial justice aspirations include remedies for deprivation of land and other material resources for all people and their socio-spatial integration into spatial development processes. Achieving them also enhances tenure security. Land tenure security is defined as the landowners’ perception of their rights to land and attached properties on a constant basis, free from eviction, or interference from outside sources (Simbizi, Bennett, and Zevenbergen, 2014). Secure tenure protects property owners against arbitrary removal from their lands or residences and provides them with a certain degree of confidence that they will not lose these properties within some future time period. Incontestably, the loss can occur, following legal procedures which must be objectively applied and which can include just compensation, either in cash or in-kind, through relocation processes (UN-Habitat 1996).

The contemporary literature discusses land tenure security as a composite concept of three elements: de jure (or legal), de facto, and perceived security (Payne, 2001). The de jure tenure security is connected to legal registration of land rights through land titling (Simbizi, Bennett, and Zevenbergen, 2014). The de facto tenure security emerges from recognition and enforced respect of individuals’ rights to land, by social and political-administrative institutions, even when these rights are not recorded (Payne, 2001). The perceived tenure security is connected to stability and durability of property ownership within a socio-political environment which recognizes property rights for all people and prevents their displacement from their properties (van Gelder, 2009). However, in urban areas, any of the three elements of tenure security can flare and converge into tenure insecurity through eviction or displacement of property owners, due to urban (re)development schemes which do not tolerate different forms of tenure. Displacement, being one pattern of tenure insecurity, can also result from land use regulations which are not aligned with financial capacity of property owners to use their lands, even when they possess land titles (Payne, 2001).

One way to counteract this insecurity of tenure would be to reinvigorate spatial justice in the urban space management, because it advances the social value of land and integration of all urban dwellers in the urban space, from which emerges tenure security. Alternatively, restoration of property rights through just compensation constitutes a remedial option to displacement and alternative approach to promote land tenure security from a spatial justice lens (Uwayezu and de Vries, 2019). These logical frames echo the potential of spatial justice to land tenure security, which is among the key outcomes of responsible land management. We probe this using the urban (re)development experience in Kigali city.

The Case Study

Our case study is Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, in Eastern Africa. This city has experienced a rapid population growth during the last 20 years. In the 1960s, it was a small center whose main function was the political administration (City of Kigali, 2013). The built-up area increased from 3 km2 in 1962 to 15 km2 in 1984 and reached 93 km2 in 2012 (Rwanda Environment Management Authority, 2017). Its population increased from 6,000 inhabitants in 1962 to 235,664 inhabitants in 1991, and reached 1,135,428 inhabitants in 2012. This population growth results from an increasing annual birth rate (of 2.6%) combined with a high (10%) rural-urban migration net (Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, 2014). However, this demographic growth of Kigali city has not been coupled with the provision of basic infrastructure and serviced land for housing development (Manirakiza and Ansoms, 2014). This resulted in an escalating development of informal settlements, deprived of access to basic urban amenities and environmental degradation (Rwanda Environment Management Authority, 2017). These settlements cover 62% of residential areas and host 79% of Kigali city inhabitants, mainly composed of poor and low-income groups (National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, 2015). To curb the growth of informal settlements, the Government of Rwanda and administration of Kigali city have been implementing detailed master plans, which re-organize the urban space and extend the provision of urban amenities (City of Kigali, 2013). Unfortunately, the initial implementation of these master plans had inadvertently been fueling land tenure insecurity. This was reflected in the displacement of poor and low-income dwellers from Kigali city, through slum clearance operations carried out until 2014 (Finn, 2018; Goodfellow, 2014).

From 2015, various approaches to implementing Kigali city master plans in spatially just ways, which promote social protection of the poor and low-income dwellers of informal settlements have been adopted (City of Kigali, 2016). These approaches include the resettlement of poor people and vulnerable groups, whose houses are in high risk zones, in serviced sites. This process reflects various aspects of spatial justice which are required in redressing deprivation of rights to land, housing and urban services for the disadvantaged urban dwellers (Uwayezu and de Vries, 2018). This chapter therefore deconstructs the potential patterns of spatial justice and land tenure security emerging from this process.

 
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