As we continue to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, it is an opportunity to reflect on those who played a key role in stopping the Genocide and what they have since been doing to rebuild the country.
There is no doubt that the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA), the military wing of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi), played a pivotal role in uprooting the genocidal government and to protect more Rwandans from being massacred in cold blood.
With meagre resources and means, the RPA, which later metamorphosed into Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF), managed to defeat the genocidal forces which had the backing of some powerful countries, restored order and immediately embarked on rebuilding the country.
However, what goes untold in most cases is the role RDF has played in restoring hope for Genocide survivors and giving them a decent life.
Sometime last year, I witnessed an occasion where the First Lady Jeannette Kagame inaugurated Impinganzima hostels constructed for Genocide widows in Mukura Sector, Huye District. The housing units were built to accommodate more than 100 widows, best known locally as ‘Incike’ (someone with no surviving offspring).
These hostels were built by RDF and funded by Unity Club and other partners. They accommodate dozens of elderly women who lost husbands and children during the Genocide and were left with nobody around.
As the First Lady and other speakers said, the project did not only give the Genocide widows the decent accommodation they deserve, but it also restored the dignity and value which they were deprived by the killers.
Beyond liberating the country, for the last 24 years, the Rwandan men and women in uniform have been constructing new and rehabilitating old houses of Genocide survivors so they too can have not only a roof over their heads but a decent one too.
Last year alone, more than 300 houses for Genocide survivors were constructed by the RDF Reserve Force in different districts across the country while they also rehabilitated more than 250 others.
These homes are complete with electricity, water and other amenities.
Indeed, RDF continues to work closely with districts and other concerned players such as the Fund for Genocide Survivors (FARG) and the private sector, to ensure that Genocide survivors are given a decent shelter.
It should be noted that the Government used to give such projects to private contractors but in most cases they would do a shoddy job – few years down the road, the houses would crack or deteriorate fast.
More importantly, the Reserve Force is recognised for doing this work at a much lower cost than private contractors yet at the same time delivers quality houses.
To confirm the quality and standard, one has to look at the 40 housing units in Rugendabari, Kankuba Cell, Mageragere Sector in Nyarugenge District which were handed to over 24 needy families of Genocide survivors in September 2017.
The entire project consists of 150 housing units and they will soon all be delivered as agreed. Each house comes with a bathroom, a kitchen and a pit latrine. The model village has a health post, administrative offices and other social facilities like halls for meetings and weddings.
The houses, which were constructed by RDF in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs, are modern standard structures, not just your ordinary houses. It goes to show the value Rwanda as a country gives to ordinary citizens.
Over the years, RDF has proved to be a trusted and reliable partner not only in supporting the country’s socio-economic development, but also in ensuring that the same people they rescued from the jaws of death live a dignified life.
As we know, the Government of Rwanda has done everything within its means to ensure that Genocide survivors, some of whom were left with nothing whatsoever, have sustainable wellbeing.
In doing what they do, RDF has reiterated that its mandate goes beyond just securing the borders of the country, but also partaking in the development process and ensuring that the living conditions of all Rwandans improve.
Indeed as some of the recipients like Emmanuel Rwigamba, who benefited from the Nyarugenge project, would attest, for Genocide survivors, decent shelter is a new lease of life.
The RDF has played a pivotal role in the implementation of the Integrated Development Programme (IDP) Model Villages in different parts of the country which have helped the Government to resettle families previously in high risk zones or to resettle vulnerable households, by not only giving them decent shelter, but also affording them easier access to critical social services.
IDP Model Villages ensure access to clean water, electricity, health facilities, marketplace, ‘smart classrooms’, improved road networks, communal cowshed, and agricultural extension services.
Beyond building houses for the vulnerable, RDF crucially contributes toward Government programmes such as One-Cow-Per-Family, locally known as Girinka. Disadvantaged Genocide survivors are among the beneficiaries of the scheme.
This comes on top of other acts of selflessness done by RDF during the annual ‘Army Week’ drive, including treating thousands of ailing Rwandans, and building schools and health facilities among other basic infrastructure.
Indeed, there is no better time to reflect on the role of RDF in ensuring that Genocide survivors get a decent life after all they have gone through.
The writer is a consultant, publisher and free thinker based in Kigali.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.