Urban planning in Burundi, what management?

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Soon 60 years that Burundi is independent but town planning and the need to build cities and communities seem to disinterest our authorities.

Next year, Burundi will celebrate 60 years of independence. It is an opportunity to assess the step taken in various fields. This article will focus on town planning, with a focus on the observations made in the political and economic capitals of Burundi that are respectively Gitega and Bujumbura.

At independence in 1962, Burundi was essentially rural. The only city that deserved the title of a city was Bujumbura. Erected as the capital of Ruanda-Urundi, Bujumbura was a bustling city for its time.

Gitega, however, the capital of the kingdom of Urundi, was a small town established mainly on the Musinzira hill, while Mushasha hosted a few primary and secondary schools and especially the Catholic mission and not the least, the Apostolic Vicariate of the ‘Urundi (now the Archdiocese of Gitega).

At that time Gitega had no paved roads but its planning of the time remains today the backbone of the city. Today, the two cities are spread out. Bujumbura is invading much of the plain and even the hills of Bujumbura-rural.

However, we notice that Gitega, which had stagnated for a long time, is now engulfing all the surrounding hills. What then is the face of these new cities Bujumbura and Gitega, the economic and political capitals?

Our cities are becoming denser and the truly organized parts are the central parts dating from the time of colonization. Most of the new neighborhoods are experiencing wild urbanization.

There are no well-marked roads, which complicate electrification and water supply. And even for serviced neighborhoods, planners did not leave roads wide enough to accommodate future highways.

As a result, the construction of a highway becomes very expensive because we will have to destroy a lot of houses and spend a lot on compensation.

Another problem is that of green spaces. The new “wild” neighborhoods left no space for tree planting.

The only parts where you can see a garden or trees planted along the arteries are the parts left by the colonizers. The new quarters are almost desert; we only see roofs of tin houses. Cleanliness is another weak point in our cities.

We can then ask ourselves what is the future of our cities. If nothing is done to rectify the situation, our cities will be unlivable in the years to come.

The town of Gitega is expanding, the city center will also have to expand but all the areas that should accommodate it are occupied without any planning. We do not see in Gitega where a motorway or roundabouts could pass.

If we want to reach sustainable development goal 11 , it will be imperative that the authorities in charge of town planning take the bull by the horns.

Likewise, young people, and other non-governmental organizations in Burundi should come together to advocate for greener cities and also commit to its realization.

Urgent action to further save these ever-expanding large cities is necessary because the longer it takes to reorganize neighborhoods built in disorder, the more difficult it will be for future generations to correct these errors. And we will always remain the laughing stock of our neighboring countries, which are in the process of managing their cities well.

By Télesphore NDAYISHIMIYE

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