Danish NGO peddled ethnic lies to pull out of Rwanda

KIGALI - BORNEfonden, a Danish Non-Governmental Organisation that operated in Rwanda for 20 years, misled its sponsors, by saying that the post genocide leadership was forcing the NGO to support Tutsi children only, The New Times can exclusively reveal.
Kigali NGO directors- Jorgensen and  Rutajoga (left and 2nd left) together with  staff members. (Courtsey Photo)
Kigali NGO directors- Jorgensen and Rutajoga (left and 2nd left) together with staff members. (Courtsey Photo)

KIGALI - BORNEfonden, a Danish Non-Governmental Organisation that operated in Rwanda for 20 years, misled its sponsors, by saying that the post genocide leadership was forcing the NGO to support Tutsi children only, The New Times can exclusively reveal.

But, the NGO’s current leadership has discovered the truth, 16 years after their former director, Soren Stenum, duped them into believing that Kigali wanted to get involved into the selection of needy children.

BORNEfonden helps children in poor countries to become healthy, well educated and independent adults and supports them and their parents to create a sustainable livelihood and the continued development of the community.

In 1995, Stenum wrote a confidential letter to BORNEfonden sponsors dissuading them from supporting Rwandan children. Stenum also described the new leadership as the “most repressive regime in Africa”.

And basing on unfounded grounds, the NGO went ahead and closed down its 31 projects, leaving thousands of needy children in the cold.

Stenum, had also explained at that time, that most of the children they had been helping before the genocide had died or disappeared during and after the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis.

In Rwanda, about 17,000 families were being supported by tens of thousands of Danish sponsors.

BORNEfonden new director, Stine Bosse, admitted that the NGO had committed serious anomalies when it withdrew from Kigali basing on unfounded information.

She has even suggested that BORNEfonden returns to Rwanda to resume its activities.

The NGO’s new stand follows the work of two Danish journalists Jorn Stjerneklar and Helle Maj, who dug into the story and revealed the lies which made the new chairman of the board to apologize to the Danish sponsors recently.

The journalists also discovered that most of the children, that Stenum had proclaimed dead, were still alive.

One of them, Dieudonne Kayibanda today lives in the Southern Province. His sponsor Jannick Storm, had been told by Stenum that Kayibanda had died.

“I thought he was dead,” says Storm in a radio documentary sent recently by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.

Employees protest

Majority of BORNEfonden employees in Kigali opposed the pull out, describing the move as unfortunate and based on lies from the then director in Kigali, Poul Erik Jorgensen and a small group of staff at the headquarters in Denmark.

In a strong worded letter to the Danish sponsors, the employees said the action was regrettable.

“We want to inform you that we were very much surprised and shocked by the decision taken by our head office in Copenhagen to close BORNEfonden activities in Rwanda.”

“Rwanda has faced many troubles because of the war that took place last year and as result many children of Rwanda you have been assisting are in a great need said,” protested Vedaste Rutajoga in the letter that was written after the NGOs pullout.

Rutajoga was at time Bornefonden’s Deputy Director in Kigali. Rutajoga also clarified that there was no government interference into BORNEfonden activities as Stenum or Jorgensen had alleged.

MRND party

Information from Copenhagen also indicates that the NGO’s representatives in Rwanda worked with powerful personalities from Juvénal Habyarimana’s MRND party.

Money from sponsors meant for vulnerable children also reportedly benefited children from well-to-do-families.  Some of the NGO’s leaders in Kigali had married sisters to MRND leaders.

It’s reported that when Habyarimana’s regime collapsed, the MRND party members asked NGO’s leaders to close the tap.

But Bornefonden’s leaders in Kigali had to find a convincing reason. They lied that the new leadership was repressive and wanted the NGO to support Tutsis kids only.

Danish journalist, Jorn Stjerneklar contributed to this article and can be reached at jornstjerneklar@yahoo.dk

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