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Seeking justice for Genocide survivors

The government is concluding an extensive report that will determine the way forward in the quest to help children orphaned by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi regain properties grabbed by unscrupulous persons.
Part of land in Gasabo belonging to Uwonkunda. Many Genocide survivors lost their land to unscrupulous persons. The New Times/ T. Kisambira.
Part of land in Gasabo belonging to Uwonkunda. Many Genocide survivors lost their land to unscrupulous persons. The New Times/ T. Kisambira.

The government is concluding an extensive report that will determine the way forward in the quest to help children orphaned by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi regain properties grabbed by unscrupulous persons.

The move is in response to complaints, over time, by survivors, especially orphans, who have since become adults, after they failed to repossess property bequeathed to them by their parents.

A task force established to investigate the complaints traversed all the 30 districts and recorded cases to find out the existing disputes and resolve them or refer them to the district officials.

Mediating

The task force, officials said, placed priority on mediation instead of litigation.

Bernadette Kanzayire, the deputy Ombudsman, who heads the task force, said most of the problems concern relatives and tutors of the orphans, who used to sell the land while orphans were still minors, or others who pretend to have got the land from legatees.

She said other problems are linked to public utilities, where land was used for structures such as schools, hospitals, and mostly imidugudu, the communal village settlements, without compensation.

Josianne Uwonkunda, 23, is a Genocide orphan, who was three-years-old during the massacres, but today finds herself at the centre of land grabbing.

 

She is the only person who survived the tragedy in a family of nine and, thus she was brought up by her grandmother from Kamonyi district in Southern Province.

 

It was not until 2010 that Uwonkunda, at 21, learnt about a big chunk of land of approximately 10 hectares that belonged to her father in Rugando, Kimihurura sector in Gasabo district.

 

She said she got to know of her possessions when a city judge sold a chunk of land, adding that she later found out more of her property from neighbours.

Since then, Uwonkunda started seeking justice, from local levels, up to the City of Kigali and later the Office of the Ombudsman.

She said more than 10 people, including Kigali City officials and organisations are suspects in her land matter. The suspects have erected structures on the plots, she said.

Some of the involved parties like Gasabo district and individuals decided to approach Uwonkunda to amicably resolve the matter.

Return land

Others, including the organisation of Jehovah Witnesses and a one Mohamed Nyakana, are still defending their claim to the land.

“They claim that they got it from my aunt. One of these people says he got my land in exchange for a TV screen,” said Uwonkunda.

Deputy Ombudsman Kanzayire, who admitted being appraised of the case but preferred not comment on it until the report is issued next week, said while assessing the land disputes that affect Genocide survivors, they used to hear all the cases and, if necessary, go to places of dispute to hear from residents.

“The aim was to resolve the issues within the limited time, and to refer the rest to local authorities for mediation, except where the parties wish for litigation,” she said, adding that in Bugesera, 10 cases of more than 60 were resolved in the three days they spent in the district.

“Even those with land titles who purchased land from wrong persons should return the lease to the land bureau,” she added.

This answers some worries from Genocide survivor associations, who say the commission, which was given three months, does not have a legal back up, since it cannot rule on such cases, apart from referring them to local leaders.

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