Ngarama residents build office for community mediators

The offices of mediators, or ‘Abunzi’, in Ngarama Sector, Gatsibo District. It was built by the residents. / Jean de Dieu Nsabimana

Residents of Ngarama Sector in Gatsibo District have completed construction of an office bloc for community-based mediators, commonly known as Abunzi.

The house located in Ngarama trading centre, is valued at more than Rwf18.5 million.

Built for six months, it was completed though fund raising and community work, known as Umuganda, and the mediators are upbeat that they will discharge their responsibilities with ease.

Gervais Mulisa, president of Abunzi in the sector, said: “We worked under trees or on roadsides, and when the sector’s hall was free we would use it, which was very rare because of the many meetings that are normally convened here.”

He said that there was a lot of inconvenience, especially when it came to keeping documents.

Ngarama has 42 mediators who sit on Thursdays, and the majority of their work is to adjudicate disputes related to land.

The residents themselves conceptualised the idea.

“It was them who decided to mobilise necessary funds, to contribute through Umuganda, and then the construction begun,” Mulisa explained.

Gervais Mulisa, president of Abunzi in Ngarama sector. / Jean de Dieu Nsabimana

The support they got from local government was the plot where they built the house.

“Residents contributed depending on their capacity, whoever had Rwf1,000, or 2,000 would contribute, and some would come and say they had no money, but that they would contribute through construction works,” he clarified.

Mulisa, who reminded that their work is voluntary service to communities, said that the gesture is testimony that their services are appreciated.

Adrien Niyibizi Minani, 44, a businessman in Ngarama trading centre, was one of residents who understood the importance of the infrastructure.

“When it rained, mediation would be cancelled, they could sometimes meet in a nearby primary court house, but when there were other events, it was not possible to convene there,” he said.

“When the residents brought such a great idea, what the local leadership did was to develop it and advise them how best they could implement it,” he added.

The Mayor of Gatsibo District, Richard Gasana, said that: “This is evidence that in Rwanda, everybody wants justice close to people.”

The new office is the first and only house in Rwanda exclusively built for mediators, he said.

“Even when the Minister of Justice [Johnston Busingye] heard of the achievement, and that we were about to inaugurate it, he asked us to wait, and on June 19, he will be here to officially open it, and personally appreciate the residents of Ngarama for the initiative,” he said.

According to Minani, after the house, the residents are looking to bring more public infrastructure to ease services.

“We had agreed that once we are done with the mediators’ office, the following activity will be a health post in Bugamba; we will sit and see together how we will do it, because it is the only cell in the whole sector without a health facility,” he revealed.