The plight of a Genocide widow

MID-LAST WEEK, the Genocide Widows Association, Avega-Agahozo, published results of a study it conducted on the living conditions of needy elderly widows and its findings were that a number of them are living in deplorable conditions.
Mukankundiye in front of a house being built for her in Buhoro cell. The New Times/Jean Pierre Bucyensenge.
Mukankundiye in front of a house being built for her in Buhoro cell. The New Times/Jean Pierre Bucyensenge.

MID-LAST WEEK, the Genocide Widows Association, Avega-Agahozo, published results of a study it conducted on the living conditions of needy elderly widows and its findings were that a number of them are living in deplorable conditions.

The survey says some widows still experience severe loneliness and poor living conditions. However, the lack of shelter is one of the challenges facing the survivors and is seriously affecting their welfare, according to the association.

 

Verdianna Mukankundiye, 55, a Genocide survivor living in Buhoro cell, Byimana sector in Ruhango district, fits exactly in that category.

 

During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Mukandutiye lost almost all her family members: six of her seven children and her husband were killed during the Dark 100 Days.

 

Nineteen years after the Genocide, the woman still struggles to get out of the difficulties she was forced into by the killing of her relatives.

Together with her last born child, delivered a few months after the purging ended, Mukandutiye lives in a three-roomed unfinished house, for which her benefactor pays Rwf4,000 per month in rent.

Fund halted

The house also serves as a shed for the donated cow, a calf and a goat she rears.

“My situation is very difficult.” That is how Mukandutiye sees her life today, years after the tragic, horrendous, terrible Genocide that claimed more than a million people.

“I have nowhere to call home and the [financial] support I used to receive was halted early last year,” she says.

Mukandutiye says she used to get between Rwf15,000 and Rwf30,000 every three months from the Fund for Vulnerable Genocide Survivors (FARG), but the support was halted when she was given a cow in May last year.

“Though the money was little, it used to supplement my efforts,” she says.

But that seems not to be a big concern for the 55-year-old widow. What makes her most uneasy is lack of shelter.

She says she had been short-listed among those who were to get shelter as part of FARG’s programme to avail houses to needy survivors. 

However, almost a year since the construction of a house supposed to be hers started, it is yet to be completed.

The house, whose construction kicked off in March, last year, was supposed to be complete in two months. 

Information from local authorities indicate that the contractor failed to meet the deadline, but he is under pressure to have the house–and about seven others he had been contracted to build in various parts of the district–completed soon.

If all goes as planned, Mukandutiye could have her house in about two months. But owing to the delays and her haunted life, she has mixed feelings.

“I have no land to cultivate and no other source of income. I just survive by doing small tasks for others,” she says, adding that her last born dropped out of school when she was in Primary Six “because I could not afford to pay her school fees.”

A step forward

Nevertheless, when Mukandutiye looks back from where she came from, she makes an optimistic conclusion: that though Genocide consequences still haunt her, she has at least managed to make a “small but significant” step forward.

“I have a goat and a cow. And I hope to get my house soon. That, at least, means that things are moving,” she says.

Prof. Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, the president of Ibuka, the Umbrella organisation for Genocide survivors’ associations, told The New Times that his organisation continues to advocate for such needy survivors who need special attention.

“We always argue in favour of such individuals,” Dusingizemungu said. “Identifying needy individuals and all their needs is an important step for the government to take informed actions.” 

He said Ibuka is grateful to government for the efforts in supporting survivors.

“We hope the issue of survivors without houses and those living in indecent houses will be tackled with time,” Dusingizemungu said.

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