Last week, during the closing ceremony of a retreat by the Student Genocide Survivors Association (AERG), some of its members complained that they are faced with a serious housing problem.
Having lost family and relatives during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis, and left without property, they have nowhere to stay when they are not at school. And while the AERG is doing its best to lend them a hand, some of the students are still left in the cold. Other Genocide survivors, too, are until today still homeless. This despite the fact that government programs have been designed to help them.
The students made the complaints to President Kagame, who was the guest of honor during their ceremony. His reaction was that he found it strange, since every year the budget reserves funds to build shelters for Genocide survivors. He therefore promised that the matter would be looked into.
However, talking to those in charge of the construction program, as The Rwanda Focus did (see cover story on page 3), it becomes clear that apparently the funds are well managed, and that they are doing their best with the available means.
Indeed, officials at the Genocide Survivors Assistance Fund (FARG) explain that construction is costly, and that they have also other types of assistance to offer. In addition, some of the houses built at the start of the program are in need of rehabilitation, which also saps some of the funding. While that might at first sight raise eyebrows, they have a sensible explanation: those houses were constructed during the emergency period in the years following the Genocide, when the need was huge, so often the work was rushed.
Past cases of embezzlement at FARG have also delayed its programs, and then there are at the time unforeseen factors that are now emerging, such as the fact that children who were orphaned during the Genocide and were put together in one house, have now grown up and are starting to establish their own families, thus requiring a house for each of them. It makes sense indeed that such issues were not exactly the first to spring to mind when the program was designed more than a decade ago.
In brief, in order to meet all the needs of all the Genocide survivors, FARG needs more means. Considering that the budget is tight and there are many priorities, we would suggest allocating part of the Agaciro Development Fund to come to the survivors' rescue. They are people who have suffered a lot, and whose lives will remain marked by the horrible events they have witnessed. The nation owes it to them, the survivors of its darkest period, to give them the means to build up a dignified existence. As far as we can see, there could be no better use for the Agaciro money.