Genocide: New efforts to help survivors reclaim lost property

Genocide survivors have been given until May 15 to report to officials at the sector level all cases where Genocide convicts are yet to pay them for their property looted or destroyed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Some of the officials at the meeting on how to help survivors get back property. (D. Umutesi)
Some of the officials at the meeting on how to help survivors get back property. (D. Umutesi)

Genocide survivors have been given until May 15 to report to officials at the sector level all cases where Genocide convicts are yet to pay them for their property looted or destroyed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The decision was made by government officials and representatives of survivors and professional bailiffs during a meeting in Kigali, last week, to brainstorm on how to solve the issue of Genocide convicts who are yet to pay for property they looted or destroyed during the Genocide.

 

The leaders said the immediate step toward solving the issue is the proper documentation of the cases with details showing who owns what in terms of monetary value for looted property and where the convicts live or their property located.

 

“Let’s stop talking in terms of generality, let’s mention specific cases and why they aren’t being resolved,” said Justice minister Johnston Busingye while officiating at the meeting, urging participants to devise effective strategies to solve the issue.

 

The meeting brought together officials from the Ministry of Justice (MINIJUST) and the Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC), representatives from the umbrella organisation for Genocide survivors, Ibuka, the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), as well as the Association of Professional Bailiffs and the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG).

Along with calling upon survivors to report the cases to local officials, the meeting recommended that a committee made up of local officials be set up at the sector level to help fast-track the resolution of the cases.

Sector committees’ composition

Egide Rugamba, the director-general in charge of planning at Minaloc, said the committee at the sector level will be made up of sector executive secretaries as well as representatives of Police, Ibuka, CNLG, and NURC.

“The committee will be very important in resolving this issue because it will supervise and guide local officials as they work to resolve the cases. The problem of Genocide convicts who are yet to pay for survivors’ property is difficult but we can’t fail to solve it since we have solved many difficult problems in this country,” Rugamba said.

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Some of the Participants of the meeting on how to help survivors get property lost in the 1994 genocide against Tutsi. The meeting was held last week at held on Friday at Hilltop Hotel. (Doreen Umutesi)

Thousands of Genocide convicts across the country were ordered to pay back property they destroyed or looted by Gacaca courts, which were closed in 2012 after hearing more than 1.3 million property-related cases and trying more than 1.9 million Genocide suspects in 10 years.

Many of the convicts have since paid back for the properties but there remain more than 66,000 cases countrywide where the convicts haven’t paid yet, according to latest figures from the Ministry of Justice.

The head of Access to Justice Department at the Ministry of Justice, Odette Yankulije, said the documented number of cases of Genocide convicts who are yet to pay for survivors’ property has been increasing since the middle of last year when the government urged the survivors to report the cases so they can be addressed.

“The more we make efforts to solve the cases, the more people report new cases, hence the increase in cases at the moment and there could even be more cases that we are yet to know. So, we have to keep sensitising people to report such cases and make efforts to resolve them,” Yankulije told The New Times last week.

Settling all the debts has proven to be difficult to accomplish with many of the convicts having died or left the country without leaving property behind or being too poor to pay or have hidden their properties by registering them under other people’s names.

But officials say whatever the case, specific details need to be compiled concerning every case so that reluctant convicts with properties are compelled to pay while those who are too poor to pay will be encouraged to ask for forgiveness so that the survivors can write off the debts.

Once the details about every case has been documented by the middle of next month, last week’s meeting heard, the government will organise a legal aid week through which massive campaigns will be initiated to resolve the cases.

“We need to have answers for every case by next year,” Minister Busingye told the stakeholders.

In case a living convict is too poor to pay back the survivors’ property and can’t secure a write-off from the survivor, the law terminating Gacaca courts and determining mechanisms for solving issues which were under their jurisdiction subjects the convicts to doing community services as alternative to imprisonment.

But the challenge for the government remains how to turn those services into money that can be used to pay the survivors, hence officials at the Ministry of Justice are under pressure to design a law that governs the process in order to try and solve the issue of unpaid properties.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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