The New Times (Kigali)

29 January 2013

Rwanda: Two Women, Six Children Left Homeless After Social Rejection

Two single mothers and their six children have not had shelter since mid December, last year, when their respective villages chastised them with accusations of causing insecurity.

They are Rosalie Yamuragiye in Mwendo sector, Ruhango district, and Chantal Nyiraneza from Gacurabwenge sector, Kamonyi district. Each has three children. Both districts are in the Southern Province.

Mid last month, residents of Nyamugari village in Mwendo sector agreed with Celestin Nzabasabira, the executive secretary of Gafunzo cell, that Yamuragiye, who had relocated to the area a year earlier from Karongi district, had to leave because she posed a 'threat to the area security.'

"They reported that she used to trade and drink illegal brew and to throw stones on neighbours' roofs. That's how they decided she had to leave," says Félicien Habimana, the executive secretary of Mwendo sector.

"She is now okay in another village waiting to harvest her crops she planted in Gafunzo marshland before departing to her original district," he said.

A similar case occurred in Kamonyi district.

On New Year's day, Nyiraneza, spent the night under an avocado tree with her twin baby girls, aged one, and their elder brother, 5, in Gihinga cell, Gacurabwenge sector.

She hails from Nyamasheke district in Western Province, where she left in 2008 to look for a job in Kigali after separating from the father of her first child.

Upon arrival in Kigali, she met Agnes Madebe of Gacurabwenge sector, in Kamonyi district who took her to work as a house-help.

In Kamonyi, she lived with Madebe's mother, for two months, earning Rwf7,000 per month. Later on, after issues with her boss, she moved to a house she rented for Rwf2,000 a month. It is there that Emmanuel Nyirabigwi, a casual labourer approached her, and spent a couple of nights at her place. Nyiraneza gave birth to the twins on February 1, 2011.

"My babies cannot die because they were born on Hero's Day," she said cuddling the seemingly malnourished babies.

Since they were born, their mother has struggled to take care of them because she has no money. Eventually, she resolved to forcibly join the father of her twins who was renting a house in another village.

Nyirabigwi would later leave them after only three days and the landlord decided to evict her because she could not afford rent.

"I had gone to bring milk from a well wisher. On return, I found all my property outside the one roomed house," she narrated. "And the village leader ruled that no neighbour should support me. That's how we spent the night under an avocado tree!"

The Nyagisozi village leader, Emile Ntirenganya, said he has no issue with Nyiraneza. He says, upon learning she had slept under a tree, he called village fundraising meeting to raise money for her transport to her parents' home.

"They gave me Rwf6,000, but my children and I were hungry and would not have made it to Nyamasheke; we spent some of the money on food and kept Rwf 2,000 to rent a hut for a month."

In the hut she now rents, Nyiraneza, has as belongings, an old green basin, a plastic old plate and a small sauce pan, plus a yellow recycled bag of Kabuye rice which stands for a suitcase to keep their washed out clothes. No food. All she wishes for is to have some milk for her children, shelter for her family, a mattress, and health insurance. She does not want to return to Nyamasheke, because, she says, there is no family to help her survive.

According to Marie Immaculée Ingabire, the Chairperson of Transparency International/ Rwanda, the move by the villagers was not fair.

"The Constitution gives any Rwandan the right to a free movement and settlement," she said quoting article 23 of the Constitution.

"If these ladies are a security threat, there are other institutions to handle it, otherwise they have to help them survive."

Authorities speak out

But Marie Alice Uwera, Kamonyi district vice mayor in charge of social affairs, says she did not know about Nyiraneza's case, and advised her to seek support from the district.

"We have an arrangement under which needy people are sheltered," she told The New Times. She said Kamonyi had built 215 houses for the needy since 2009.

"We welcome even those not from our district as long as they are known at the village level," she said.

The Governor of the Southern Province, Alphonse Munyentwali, said such mess arises from poverty, and urged the two women to return to their homes, because there, they can be better supported.

"It is a shame to hear that someone can sleep under a tree in this day and age. If she has failed both Kigali and Kamonyi, she is not helping her situation by renting houses while she doesn't have money," Munyentwari said of Nyiraneza.

According to the governor, to narrow down this traffic of people who 'can potentially harm security', they convince them to voluntarily return to their respective districts.

According to Catherine Gatete, the vice mayor in charge of social affairs in Nyamasheke district where Nyiraneza reportedly hails, they have various programmes under which citizens get support to overcome poverty.

They employ them in public works like terracing, road construction, where they earn Rwf 700 per day.

But the women still want the side where the grass is greener.

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