Genocide survivors have been facing challenges accessing funds that their deceased parents or relatives left in the banks and contributed to the social security fund before they were killed 24 years ago, says Ibuka – an umbrella organisation for Genocide survivors.
Speaking to The New Times, the Executive Secretary of Ibuka, Naphtal Ahishakiye, said that there were parents and relatives who had saved money with several banks before the Genocide. Some children, he said, were still too young and, as a result, they weren’t aware that their parents has savings in banks.
“A long time has elapsed since then. Some were raised up in orphanages, others in foster families”, said Ahishakiye citing some of the challenges in regards to accessing such savings.
Another challenge, he said, is based on the habits of Rwandans before the Genocide against the Tutsi where a husband would have a bank account while the wife did not have any information about it or which bank, as long as he provided for the family.
Ahishakiye observed that the third challenge, which is the main one and concerns banks, is that the they lacked willingness to look for the members of families of their slain customers.
“Banks managed to identify orphans whose parents had outstanding loans, and requested them to pay knowing very well that they were still children. When they failed, their properties were put to auction. But for those the banks owed money, they had no will to return it,” he said.
Basing on the scenario above, Ahishakiye affirms, it is difficult for the banks to have lost their data, observing that if banks had been more cooperative in this issue, the problem would have been settled.
The Chief Legal Officer and Helpline Coordinator at the Association of Student Survivors of Genocide (AERG), Jean-Damascène Nsanzumuhire, told The New Times that they requested the Central Bank (BNR) to identify the people who had money in banks so that they share the information with the concerned people.
He said some children know that their parents were employees, but because of lack of banking records for which bank their parent used to deposit money, or how much they deposited, it becomes difficult to resolve the matter.
Also, he said, some survivors have difficulties knowing details about the contributions of their parents in the social security scheme, which becomes difficult for them to access social security benefits.
However, when contacted, Central Bank Governor, John Rwangombwa said that they do not have any official information of surviving children who did not have access to their parents’ money in banks.
“We do not have any list of people who have claims in a given bank”, he said.
He said that survivors who have information about their parents’ deposits in banks can work with the bank in question and request the central bank assistance, in retrieving money on abandoned accounts if that is the case.
“It’s unfortunate if there is a child who lost their parent while still too young and don’t have any information to help them know whether their parents had savings in banks. It is not easy to conduct research on such an issue,” he said.
Pay with interest
Meanwhile, Marie-Immaculée Ingabire, the Chairperson of Transparency International Rwanda, said that this is a serious problem if one considers the years gone by without action.
“There is the injustice these surviving children experience having lost their loved ones when they were still very young. There is also a burden these banks put on the Government because had they given these children their money some wouldn’t be counted among the needy Genocide survivors who depend on Government assistance.
“Even though a lot of time has gone by, the banks should up their game and give these children their money as well as interest because the banks used the money. But if these banks don’t do this on their own accord and willingness, I request concerned public institutions to act”, she said.
Asked about who exactly should take the lead in taking action, Ingabire primarily pointed the finger at the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), and the Fund for the Support of Genocide Survivors (FARG), and others.
She said: “Let’s start with CNLG; they must follow up interests of Genocide survivors. Then FARG; those banks owe it money because it is the one presently doing what that money would have done. I also look at rights organisations, especially organisations that particularly promote the interests of genocide survivors such as Ibuka and AVEGA, but also all of us as Rwandans, because this issue concerns us all”.
Bankers’ body speaks out
When contacted, Maurice Toroitich, the Chairperson of Rwanda Bankers’ Association (RBA), said that the issue had not been specifically brought to the attention of the association saying that it could be that banks were dealing with individual cases.
“I suppose that each bank is dealing with individual cases independently. It is an issue that is more bank specific than industry. In general, the law of succession applies to determine access and distribution of such funds,” he added.
Additional reporting by James Karuhanga