19 years later, no Genocide survivor should be grieving!

I always take what the Saturday BBC Kinyarwanda programme, Imvo n’Imvano, says with a pinch of salt – a fat pinch. Despite its honourable intentions when it started, the programme has often been hijacked and turned into a platform for political contest, when it comes to Rwanda.
Pan Butamire
Pan Butamire

I always take what the Saturday BBC Kinyarwanda programme, Imvo n’Imvano, says with a pinch of salt – a fat pinch. Despite its honourable intentions when it started, the programme has often been hijacked and turned into a platform for political contest, when it comes to Rwanda.

Rather than give us clarifications on the state of affairs in the Great Lakes region, it seems to be mostly preoccupied with giving a voice to unprincipled opposition.

And so, last Saturday it was with some scepticism that I listened to its reports on the condition of some orphans of the 1994 Genocide against Batutsi. But even before listening, I was wondering: why don’t our numerous local FM radios think of such reviews of the conditions of Genocide survivors, for instance, at a time like this?

Why do these radios leave the task to outside radios that are only interested in finding fault, as they have demonstrated? Granted, government officials are doing a spirited job of it. And so are officials of the umbrella organisations in charge of Genocide survivors, Ibuka, and FARG (French acronym for Genocide Survivors’ Assistance Fund).

However, as anyone will tell you, few people are willing to believe official reports or reports from partisan parties, however credible they may be.

Anyway, back to the three BBC reports last Saturday.

The first report was on some orphans in Bugesera District and it made for terrible listening. Not one of the orphans believed that they were in anyway being adequately catered for. The stories of how they lived on their own in houses that were falling apart, when they are not capable of repairing them, were downright heartrending.

Of course, I know Rwandans (or Africans?) – even kids – and their penchant for grieving any time they are given a microphone. But all the same, their conditions need to be checked out.

The second report was on some orphans in Rulindo District and what a welcome difference! One lady actually believes she is wealthy, proudly showing off the house and land given to her and how she has gone on to modernise the house and exploit the land.

With the rest of her siblings, she ‘boasted’, they’ve been given enough land and decent housing in Umudugudu (group settlement). The land in Umudugudu sustains them while they use their original parents’ land, located some distance from them, for commercial purposes.

But, in the same area, the story of one young man was revealing – and perhaps tells a thing or two about the Bugesera cases also! He has a problem, he assured the BBC news stringer, that the organisations concerned with helping them have ignored him.

Like the others, he was given land and a house but those cannot sustain him; he wants a job as a driver. The problem, though, is that he has not been enabled to acquire a driving licence! Did we say a penchant for grieving?

The third report was on some orphans in Nyamagabe, again making for heart-searing listening. Like their counterparts in Bugesera, they reported only grief and I couldn’t tell if it was the effect of looking at a microphone.

In particular, I thought one young man’s story needed urgent investigation. All the local leaders can vindicate his story, he assured the stringer. He has been assisted, he said, but his late parents’ land has been taken over by a soldier and even the courts have failed to do anything about it. I think, considering that he is practically invalid from Genocide wounds, he should get the attention he craves.

All in all, then, these stories need to be examined seriously. There may be exaggerations, distortions or even outright lies in the stories of these kids but they should not exactly be ignored. Cases of orphans who are neglected despite their vulnerability may be few and far apart but they do exist, as students of the Agriculture Institute of Busogo have demonstrated.

On visiting one of their fellow students, the students discovered that she lived with an elder sister, Grace, who has given up school in order to look after their home. As a young lady living alone most of the time, Grace is exposed to dangers that a male neighbourhood can easily visit on her.

To compound her problems, their house looks like it’s going to crumble anytime. Also, being far from any health centre, were she to fall sick, God forbid, she is not an adherent of the ubiquitous health insurance scheme, Mutuelle de Santé, when almost every other Rwandan is.

To their credit, many Rwandans have come up to answer the SOS call of these students, but there are questions that need pressing answers. If a case like Grace’s exists, and maybe some of those voiced on BBC, how many others like them exist?

And if they exist, there is no doubt that somebody knows about them: why wasn’t something done about them immediately? 19 odd years after 1994, can Rwandans afford to see the condition of a single survivor made worse than it already is, by the mere fact of remembering?

No, the negligence of a few local officials should not be allowed to blight the sterling efforts of our government. Heads must roll!

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