The New Times (Kigali)

8 April 2008

Rwanda: Despite Poor Beginning, Farg Will Deliver - Officials

Kigali — As Rwandans mark the fourteenth anniversary of the 1994 Genocide, officials in charge of the Fund for the Support of Genocide Survivors (FARG) say the fund will soon achieve its goals.

This comes in the wake of public criticism of the way the Fund is managed, especially on the issue of housing for survivors - an issue seen as a complete failure on the side of successive Fund officials.

But while the Executive Secretary of FARG, Jean Marie Kerekezi, acknowledged that the Fund faces many problems especially in providing shelter to the most vulnerable Genocide survivors, there is hope all the goals will be achieved in the next three years.

"It is possible. I am optimistic since a mindset change has been achieved," he said in an interview with The New Times. "It is only the housing programme that has run into difficulty, but this will be rectified with concerted efforts from the local governments."

Karekezi said that in the past five years, over 60 percent of its total budget had gone into assisting about 50,000 student survivors in education.

Up to 2007, an estimated 30,000 were assisted to complete high school and another 1,500 in university and other higher institutions of learning, he added. Last year alone, over Frw7.7 billion was used to assist 52,148 students.

His comments come after President Paul Kagame last week admitted that the Fund had fallen short of achieving its objectives.

The President said that FARG had not been properly managed giving the example of some of the Fund's officials who misappropriated its resources, only to flee to exile later.

Kagame said his view had always been that FARG programmes should be managed within the mainstream Government systems other than leaving it to the survivors themselves.

"Long ago, a mistake was made when the Fund was created. Some people, even within the leadership, suggested that the Fund should be managed by survivors in order for it to be effective, but some of those people were the first culprits when they were put in FARG leadership. Some ran away and they are now in exile because they had mismanaged the funds. For me, I have always been opposed to this; the Fund was created by the Government and should be managed by the Government," the President told journalists.

He went on: "There are weaknesses to a great extent in as far as having the Fund do what it was created for. Until now it's a failure, and I also take a bit of responsibility, unfortunately," Kagame said.

The Head of State however observed that the Government had taken measures to correct the mistakes done in the past.

As revealed by a recent FARG report, the education project encounters problems since there are people who want to gain from the fund yet they don't genuinely qualify as being needy nor are they genocide survivors.

Local government officials last week pledged to devise a mechanism of identifying those who unduly benefit from FARG.

"There should be a mechanism of exposing these people in the community. They should be identified and punished accordingly," a seemingly shocked Southern Province Governor Fidele Ndayisaba said during a meeting between local government officials and the central Government.

Scholastic materials do not reach schools in time and there is still a low number of students attaining university, it was observed during the two-day meeting.

As regards housing, Karekezi pointed out that in 2005 the Ministry of Local Government and other stakeholders met to solve the problems encountered in the housing programme.

About Frw1, 104,000,000 was given to districts to construct 1,722 houses in 2006 and Frw1,951,780,740 in 2007 for 2,066 houses. However, more than 14,000 Genocide survivors' families remain without proper housing.

The problems in housing have largely been blamed on lack of follow-up, thus most houses were poorly built and collapsed later.

Other problems include untimely delivery of shelter and health reports and lack of enough funds.

Karekezi's optimism largely stems from the fact that local governments are campaigning to make FARG activities reach genuine beneficiaries.

"This will avoid all those channels so that all Mayors will do is follow up," Local Government Minister Protais Musoni told a two-day leaders conference at Jali Club last week.

FARG was established in January 1998 to help support needy Genocide survivors (such as orphans, widows, the crippled and the elderly) in education, health and housing.

The Government contributes 5% of its annual budget to FARG.

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