How long will survivors remain vulnerable?

Police with the help of the army are investigating allegations that the money meant for genocide survivors was embezzled by local district leaders.
Genocide survivors at one of the memorial sites.
Genocide survivors at one of the memorial sites.

Police with the help of the army are investigating allegations that the money meant for genocide survivors was embezzled by local district leaders.

The investigators were notified after an audit of financial records at different districts revealed that funds genocide Survivours (FARG) could not be accounted for.

Auditors discovered a number of irregularities in the disbursement of the money. And the financial scam was perpetuated by local leaders.

After what happened, 14 years ago during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi’s, anyone living in Rwanda knows the degree of damage and scars inflicted on the survivors.

It’s not breaking news that Rwanda has a considerable number of orphans and survivors who are still healing from the past atrocities.

The physical and mental evidence can sometimes be seen on passersby as you walk along streets or visit places. In other words, this mess would not be here today if only these local leaders, who were entrusted with the role of helping genocide survivors, were true to the vows they took when they were being sworn in as leaders.

In this perspective who in Rwanda does not know that leadership is a service, irrespective of the position one holds in society.

Let’s forget about the local leaders just for a moment and focus on the survivors. Probably right now, they could be habouring thoughts and a feeling of betrayal.

What they went through was more than enough and I am sure they do not need any more incidents that will make them vulnerable.

When Mary Kayitesi Blewitt, a British citizen of Rwandan origin and the founder of the Survivours Fund (SURF) lost 50 family members during the genocide, she foresaw what survivors would go through in the aftermath. 

This was after volunteering and working with the then Ministry of Rehabilitation for eight months at the end of the genocide in July 1994. Her experience of burying the dead and supporting survivors is what inspired her to set up the Survivor’s Fund later in 1997.

The fund represents and supports survivors of the Rwandan genocide in the United Kingdom and Rwanda. It is the only international charity with a specific objective to assist survivors of the Rwandan genocide.

This is through ensuring that they receive aid, assistance and support, and that their voices are heard by people around the world.

So far as regards internal rebuilding, Rwanda has achieved considerable progress however, the legacy of the genocide still remains and touches every aspect of the survivors lives.

There are an estimated 300,000 survivors in the country, of which 120,000 are considered to be very vulnerable to numerous issues.

Despite health related problems like HIV/ Aids, survivors are still threatened with violence. In some areas they are still attacked or killed by former perpetrators of the genocide who are released from prison.

True, some perpetrators reform, but we cannot ignore the attacks on the survivors that continue to happen. This only causes insecurity and makes rebuilding their lives alongside these individuals a difficult reality to face.

To make them feel happy in society, over 20,000 households have been built to provide shelter for survivors.

In Nyamata, a small town in Bugesera district in Rwanda’s Eastern province is one of the many grim genocide memorial sites in the country.

Just opposite the site, survivors live in homesteads most of them are child-headed, the older children being responsible for the young ones.

Twenty year old Jane Nsengiyimana has been the head of a household of four children. She was six years old during the genocide and survived with others by hiding in the nearby swamp located in the area’s valley.

She said the conditions they live in are sometimes difficult. With no beds to sleep on, a limited supply of food clothing’s and basic necessities like soap, they can only live by using sparingly what they have. 

Such children need support. That is why government planners started this fund. Currently, 5 percent of the government’s budget supports FARG to facilitate these orphans to study and provide for their basic needs.

According to Jean Marie Karekezi- FARG’s Executive Secretary, the amount is enough to cater for all survivors’ needs if it’s properly allocated.

Each year, 30,000 beneficiaries are supposed to be eliminated from the list of vulnerable survivors. However, one of the irregularities is that another big number of people who are not survivors are illegally added by local leaders on the FARG list.

This clearly explains the miserable conditions that the survivors live in. This calls for serious correction measures by the government.

Even though, the current scam in the FARG funds is under investigation, the final name list should be drawn after an honest, truthful and transparent analysis of the implicated local leaders. 

This will ensure that the new leaders will serve with a purpose of fully supporting survivors in Rwanda to achieve proper education, healthcare, shelter, justice and memory healing.

If this happens, then survivors in the country will at least feel secure and no longer be vulnerable victims of circumstances. This is why the fund has attracted sympathy from several funders.

FARG has received over Rwf70 billion funding for its activities since its establishment from various organisations that support genocide survivors.

These include: SURF, IBUKA (National Umbrella of Survivors’ Organisations), AVEGA (Association of Widows of the Genocide), AOCM (Association of Orphan-Headed Households), Uyisenga N’Manzi (Organisation of Child Survivors with HIV/Aids) and Solace Ministries (Christian Survivors Support Organisation).


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