Summary of the year

Here we describe our work in the year ending 31 December 2011, highlighting our strengths and weaknesses, and looking forward to the work that we plan to undertake in 2012. Progress is assessed against our goals as stated in the SURF Strategic Plan.

We will secure the rights of survivors to justice and protection

Gacaca (village-based genocide trials) is due to be concluded on 18th June in Rwanda.

It has been widely reported that the process has delivered mixed results for survivors. On the one hand, it has resulted in a level of truth for survivors, enabling them to identify the final resting place of the remains of victims of the genocide and to ensure that they receive a decent burial. However, very few of the perpetrators expressed genuine remorse for the atrocities they committed, and many confessed only to lesser crimes to secure a more lenient sentence. A significant number of survivors were threatened, and a number even killed, for testifying or serving as judges at gacaca. Threats to survivors persist in light of the release of prisoners of the genocide.


Over the year we have extended our work with Redress, a UK-based international legal rights organisation, on exploring and identifying potential avenues for compensation for survivors, both in Rwanda and through international jurisdiction. Led by Juergen Shurr of Redress, SURF is working on a report on the closure of gacaca to be published in June 2012, which will focus on the unresolved issues of the process, in particular relating to the lack of enforcement of compensation awards made by gacaca courts. This work is directed in-country by Albert Gasake, appointed in December 2011 as SURF Legal Advocacy Project Coordinator, to spearhead this increasingly critical component of our work.

SURF also worked in collaboration with the global law firm, White & Case, which developed a rigorously researched report on Advice on Potential Compensation Claims for Rwandan Genocide Survivors. The report covered the possibility of bringing compensation claims (i) in Rwandan domestic courts, (ii) at the international level, (iii) in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Statute, and (iv) in continental Europe (Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands) through the process of adhesion. The report is proving invaluable in defining our legal advocacy strategy, even though the summary was not positive:

“Within the context of the presently existing legal frameworks, it is difficult for a claimant to successfully obtain large sums in compensation from a Rwandan court, a foreign domestic court or at the international level. Claims brought in Rwanda are likely to come up against the problem of defendants who do not have the means to pay, claimants bringing a case in foreign domestic courts will face potentially huge legal costs and, with the exception of claims for diplomatic protection, (which would require the support of the Rwandan state), cases brought at the international level are likely to encounter challenges with jurisdiction and standing.”

The report concluded:

“…it must be remembered that litigation can only achieve so much and further consideration should be given to trying to establish / lobby for the establishment of a compensation fund. Governments, corporations and philanthropic organisations could then be contacted in order to see if they would be prepared to contribute funds which could be used to support projects in Rwanda.”

As such, the focus of the work of SURF, in partnership with Redress, is to explore the feasibility of the establishment of such a compensation fund, which if considered to be viable will then be the focus of a future advocacy campaign. To this end, SURF appointed Olivier Bucyana in January 2012 as the International Trust Fund for Survivors of the Genocide of Rwanda (ITFSG) Project Officer to develop a research report on the establishment of such a fund, in consultation with our partner organisations, in Rwanda.

We extend thanks to Stefan Mrozinski and Zelda Hunter at White & Case, who continue to play a vital role in assisting this work.


Led by Léa Steinacker, a Princeton graduate who interned with SURF for three months from September 2011, we developed a new project to research and document unresolved legal cases of survivors in Rwanda. The project, in association with Redress, and part-funded by the Sigrid Rausing Trust, enabled the recruitment of interns (all legal graduates in membership of AERG) at four of our partner organisations (AVEGA, IBUKA, AERG, Solace Ministries) to strengthen their capacity to undertake this documentation process.

On the basis of the cases documented, SURF will fund a select number of cases to pursue through the formal courts in Rwanda. These relate to the awards of compensation to survivors that have not been enforced, as well as more common cases of property and land which have been seized from orphaned survivors in particular during and after the genocide. SURF funded a number of such cases through IBUKA in 2011, and will support further cases through IBUKA, AVEGA, AERG and Solace Ministries in 2012.


SURF developed a new exhibition in 2011 that was staged over the summer at the London School of Economics  (LSE), entitled Restorative Justice: Advancing the Human Rights of Survivors of Genocide in Rwanda. Noam Schimmel, a PhD candidate at LSE, secured permission and funding for the exhibition, and curated it as well. Noam has been a committed supporter of our work now for a number of years, for which we are grateful.

Following the exhibition, SURF sat on a panel event at the film screening of Coexist, a remarkable independent documentary film by Adam Mazo examining the unique social experiment of reconciliation in Rwanda. It tells the stories of genocide survivors searching for ways to coexist with their loved ones’ murderers. SURF has subsequently facilitated the screening of the film at a number of other UK venues, and will continue to support this landmark film.

We will advocate nationally and internationally for the rights of survivors

The focus of SURF’s work for the year ahead will be on advocacy, with dedicated workshops for our partner organisations, and a two-week practicum being developed with the Project Umubano team to deliver additional training and the opportunity to secure funding for advocacy projects in the summer of 2012.

The priorities of the survivors in membership of our partner organisations continue to be in four areas: education, employment, shelter and healthcare.


SURF is continuing to advocate for education for survivors, particularly for young survivors who have now graduated from secondary school. Over 10,000 young survivors have no access to tertiary education (university or vocational training) which places them at a critical disadvantage for securing sustainable livelihoods through meaningful employment.

Through funding from Foundation Rwanda, SURF pays school fees for more than 850 children born to women survivors of the genocide, who would otherwise have no access to primary or secondary education. Through Foundation Rwanda’s work, this particularly marginalised and vulnerable population has been recognised by survivors’ organisations and the Government of Rwanda as a target group in need of specific support.

Through funding from an array of donors, but principally from the Charities Advisory Trust, SURF supports 76 young survivors through university – of which 18 graduated over the course of the year. This work is ably coordinated by Ariane Uwamahoro, who oversees not only the administration of the programme, but also welfare of the students that SURF supports.


The Education into Employment programme, which SURF established in partnership with AERG in 2010, continues to provide access to vital services for young survivors who would not otherwise have support for their transition from university into employment. The programme includes the regular publication of Green Light, Rwanda’s first career guidance newsletter,

and a mentoring initiative, through which more than 300 survivors have undertaken a 12-week programme encompassing modules on how to secure work experience, building a strong CV and research employment opportunities. It also includes support for English language clubs at universities across Rwanda. This programme has been led by Eugene Ndagijimana.

The right to employment, or the right to develop a livelihood, is a critical priority for genocide survivors as it enables them to become independent and self-sufficient. Though youth unemployment is falling, it is still a major problem in Rwanda and across East Africa. SURF plans to commit further resources in the year ahead to advocate for further funding, as well as to secure new partnerships, to address this critical issue.

In so doing, we recognise that job creation is critical to deliver employment opportunities. As such, we are developing a new entrepreneurship programme with AERG over the year ahead, which is being led by Jean Paul Nyiribakwe.


SURF has focused on the rehabilitation of houses, which has proven to be more cost- effective than the construction of new houses due to the increasing cost of building supplies and labour. Houses were rehabilitated in Ntarama and Gitarama. However, the need for shelter is becoming ever more critical, in particular for survivors in the Western Province of Rwanda. Many survivors there were the beneficiaries of houses built in the immediate aftermath of the genocide, which are now in a very dilapidated condition – some even beyond repair. Having previously received support for housing materials from FARG, these survivors have been unable to access additional funding, even though in most cases, that initial support was supplied more than 15 years ago.

This situation was exacerbated by a report from the Auditor General in Rwanda which called FARG’s inadequate support for shelter “not worth the amount of money spent.” FARG has since decided to end all funding for shelter projects, leaving many survivors with no foreseeable solution to inadequate housing. With costs for new house construction in the region of £4,000 for a basic 3-bedroom unit, the challenge of new shelter is compounded by many donors’ resistance to fund capital building projects. With no funding available from FARG, there is a critical need for SURF to advocate for additional funding for housing.


Survivors endure many health challenges, resulting from injuries suffered as a result of the genocide. They may also suffer from chronic diseases, disabilities, and mental health issues, all of which need support.

The cost of communal health insurance (mutuelle de santé) ranges from FRW 2,900 (about £3) for the extremely poor to FRW 7,000 (about £7) for the employed. The most vulnerable survivors are eligible to receive mutuelle de santé at no cost through FARG. This then entitles them to access primary healthcare through public clinics. This provision though is to be mainstreamed through the National Social Protection Strategy, and as such there will be a critical need to monitor the access of survivors to this support, which will be a focus of the work of SURF’s partners.

Yet even with insurance, many survivors find it difficult to cover the unavoidable costs of medicine, food, hygienic products and transportation fares to and from clinics and hospitals. Patients are required to pay 10% of the cost of prescription drugs, which is beyond the financial capacity of many survivors.

Through a grant from Comic Relief, SURF is funding support for more than 1,500 HIV+ survivors in membership of AVEGA and Solace Ministries to access health clinics to ensure their adherence to their treatment regime. This project is due to conclude in September 2012. The challenge ahead will be ensuring that both partner organisations continue to maintain such support.

We will reach more vulnerable widows and orphans and increase their standard of living


Through the Comic Relief funded HIV+ Survivors Integration Project (SIP), SURF has developed a successful model of income-generating activities, based on a network of Cooperative Business Development (CBD) officers which SURF recruited from university graduates in membership of AERG. The CBDs receive training along with the Income Generating  Activities (IGA) Officers of AVEGA and Solace in a curriculum developed by Amity Weiss which provides an introduction to all aspects of new business development – ranging from market research to business planning, and from marketing to sales.

A loan-guarantee fund has been established with the Urwego Opportunity Bank (UOB), a non-profit microfinance institution, which enables groups of survivors to access loans at below- market interest rates to set up and scale up their businesses. In the first phase of the work, 15 groups with an average of 25 survivors in each group were supported through an intensive three- month training programme, at the conclusion of which they submitted their business plans for assessment by UOB loan officers. By December 2011, all groups had received loans, and at the time of writing (March 2012), all groups have maintained a 100% repayment rate.

In January 2012, a new cohort of 15 groups began the training programme, with a further 15 groups expected to start up the training in June 2012. The success of this programme, coordinated by Catherine Russell, and supported by Raban Havugimana, can be placed in context of the repayment rate of less than 40% of the same groups that were established and funded under the independently managed DFID Care and Treatment Programme for HIV+ Women Survivors.

In addition, many of the participants in the programme are considered high-risk clients due to their HIV+ status, their age (the average age is 49), their low level of income (average spending is around £1.25 a day in an average family size of 5, with an average of only 1 income earner per household, with 95% of households being female-headed) and their low education levels (77% of members with an education level no higher than primary school).

The model will form the basis of a new programme to be funded by DFID in 2012 to establish support to widowed survivors in the Southern and Northern Regions of Rwanda through AVEGA. The Widowed Survivors Empowerment Project (WSEP) is a three-year programme which will strive to transition over 2,000 survivors in these regions into sustainable IGAs by the end of the grant period.


Survivors Fund received funding of £128,525 from the Charities Advisory Trust in 2011. The funding enabled an array of projects including:
•    Two new solar lamp projects led by AVEGA Central Region and Solace Ministries
•    Two new bicycle projects led by AVEGA Western Region and Uyisenga N’Manzi
•    Stocking and expansion of a new goat farm in Nyagatare managed by AERG
•    The expansion of the Gitarama pig farm  benefiting orphans of AOCM
•    On-going support to the Ntrama cow farm managed by GAERG
•    Distribution of rice at Christmas to widows and orphans of AVEGA Eastern Region
•    Strengthening SURF’s university sponsorship programme for young survivors
•    Supporting SURF’s education programme for children born of rape
•    An array of additional livestock and livelihood projects

Funding from Good Gifts through the Charities Advisory Trust continues to be transformative for thousands of genocide survivors and their dependants across Rwanda. This has been due to the exponential growth of the livestock programmes, with demonstration farms set up with Good Gifts grants producing ever increasing numbers of offspring which are gifted on by survivors, often to non-survivors, as a means of enhancing social integration. AVEGA has pioneered this model of gift giving.

The impact of the funding from Good Gifts extends far beyond the direct support provided by the grants. It is enabling SURF and its partner organisations to respond to the needs of genocide survivors, and in most cases is enabling them and their members to generate an income that delivers a sustainable impact far beyond the period of the grant. Ultimately this is leading to our partner organisations and the survivors, supported through the programme, to become more self-sufficient and ultimately independent, realising our goal of rebuilding their lives after genocide.

Over the year ahead, we will be undertaking a more systematic evaluation to quantify the impact of other components of the programme. This will include an evaluation of the solar lamps and bicycle projects, as well as the goat and cow farms.

We will deliver greater access to essential services for survivors


The critical focus of the Comic Relief funded HIV+ Survivors Integration Project (SIP), is to ensure the integration of HIV+ women survivors into the public health system in Rwanda. In partnership with AVEGA and Solace Ministries, SURF has been working to address the resistance of HIV+ women survivors in particular to access treatment through public health clinics, due to a lack of confidence and a perceived lack of confidentiality of doing so.

Through pro bono support from Dr Carl Auerbach, Professor of Psychology at Yeshiva University, we undertook a preliminary research study in Rwanda into the obstacles that a sample of the women faced to access treatment. SIP has developed a means of support for more than 1,500 HIV+ women survivors in membership of AVEGA and Solace Ministries, through Community Development Workers (CDWs) providing accompaniment to HIV+ survivors to local health clinics to ensure their integration into them. This proved important for a number of reasons, in particular to ensure that the survivors feel that they have the support to report problems if any do arise, and to build up their confidence over a number of visits to begin to access treatment through the local health clinics independently.


A further extension of the AVEGA Health Centre in Ntarama was completed in 2011, with the opening of a hospitalisation ward which includes two single-sex wards, as well as private rooms, for patients that require residential care – as well as a dedicated maternity unit, the first of its kind in the area. This has been made possible through funding and support from INSPIRE!africa, and the Tinsley Foundation.

An additional extension to the health clinic was completed as well, providing a dedicated area for health education and training and consultation rooms for family planning, counselling and testing. An outhouse providing toilet and bathing facilities, and a cooking demonstration facility, were completed over the course of the year. These upgrades have enabled the clinic to become a flagship centre for high-quality primary healthcare in the region, delivering care to over 15,000 patients over the year.

In November 2011, an internal evaluation of the centre was led by Lilian Muredwa, who developed recommendations for ensuring that the centre meets all national standards ahead of its planned transition to the Ministry of Health in September 2012. At this point, SURF’s funding commitment will be complete and future funding will be provided through the Government of Rwanda.


In September, with funding from INSPIRE!africa, AVEGA opened a new Wellness Centre in Cyangugu, on the site of its Western Region office, to provide health education and training to its members.

The Wellness Centre was developed in a previously disused building adjacent to the site of the AVEGA Western Region (AWR) office, and the centre is providing access to education, counselling and training for AWR members. Two additional Community Development Workers have been recruited, one with expertise in health and the other with expertise in livelihood development. Together they have developed and are leading a number of training sessions, including on active listening, how to help or orient trauma cases, support during the mourning period, mushroom farming, banana planting and sewing.

Through the centre, AWR members are able to understand how they can improve their own mental health, as well as to support other women survivors to do so. All the livelihood training ultimately helps to improve the nutrition or strengthen the prospect of income-generation for the 3,500+ genocide widows in membership of AWR. This is particularly important for HIV+ members.


Through funding from the US-based non- profit organisation Foundation Rwanda, SURF is able to provide support to an array of our partner organisations to identify and support the education of children born of rape. By the end of 2011, the programme is funding over 850 children through school, as well as providing additional support to the mothers of the children.

The financial support amounts to FRW 70,000 (£80) a year for primary school students, and FRW 160,000 (£180) for secondary school students and covers school uniform, personal items (toothbrush, mattress, soap, etc.) and scholastic materials (books, stationery, etc.) for both sets of students, as well as tuition and transport for secondary school students.

Foundation Rwanda is committed to continue to extend that support to children born of rape through to their graduation from school. However it is beyond its remit to support children of women survivors born after the genocide. This is where SURF’s livelihood programme is proving invaluable, to enable the women to support independently such children, particularly once they reach secondary school age when the financial burden increases considerably.

In partnership with Dr Carl Auerbach and Denise Sandole of Yeshiva University, SURF and Foundation Rwanda are now developing a psychosocial programme to empower the women to address issues that arise from their situation and relationship with their children. This work is supported by Jemma Hogwood, a clinical psychologist from the UK who began working with SURF from September, who leads this work in-country and provides critical support to other partners.

Additional support was provided by Zack Gross, who interned with SURF last year on the Foundation Rwanda programme, until the return from sabbatical of Sam Munderere in January to manage the programme for SURF. Zack coordinated the visit of the GLO Dental Team from the US, which provided dental treatment to over 1,000 of the beneficiaries – a vital contribution, as Rwanda has less than ten dentists. A repeat visit is planned for the year ahead. For his commitment, we are grateful.

We will build a solid institutional base for the work of SURF and its partners


In July, SURF organised the community group of Project Umubano, the two-week international social action programme of the UK Conservative Party.

A group of 10 members of the 100-strong delegation in Rwanda undertook an intensive capacity building exercise with nine of SURF’s partner organisations (Uyisenga N’Manzi, Kanyarwanda, IBUKA, AVEGA (Central, Eastern Region, Western Region), AERG, GAERG, Solace Ministries), providing support and training on the development of programme proposals to deliver projects in the fields of solar power, gender-based violence, and bicycle transport.

The partners submitted a written application and budget following field research and consultation with beneficiaries, and presented their final proposals to a panel of dignitaries which included H.E Ben Llewellyn-Jones, British High Commissioner to Rwanda, and Stephen Crabb MP, Leader of Project Umubano.

Over the course of the two weeks, training sessions were developed and delivered by the Umubano team members on subjects including budgeting and proposal writing, communications and presenting. The winning proposals received grants made possible through funding from the Sigrid Rausing Trust and the Good Gifts Catalogue of the Charities Advisory Trust.

The 2012 Project Umubano initiative will evaluate and build the capacity of the same partner organisations to independently evaluate these projects and deliver a similar practicum on advocacy, which will provide training to the partner organisations as well as enabling them to secure funding for advocacy projects.


In partnership with AERG in 2011, SURF developed the Kigali Language Exchange (KLE), which is delivering high quality, affordable English language training to all in Kigali. What is unique about the initiative is that 70% of all profits generated by KLE are to be reinvested into the Education into Employment programme that AERG continues to coordinate for university students in Rwanda.

KLE was initiated based on a need within Rwanda – a country that recently transitioned from Francophone to Anglophone – thus creating high demand for quality English teaching. There are currently few good quality, affordable language schools in Kigali, thus developing the school is helping to support the overall development of Rwanda. At the same time, its main purpose is to raise the funds necessary to support the on-going running cost of the Education into Employment Programme.

KLE is based on the successful English language programme originally developed as part of EiE, and has been in operation since September 2011. It is currently delivering training to an array of organisations, including a number of SURF partners (AVEGA, IBUKA and Kanyarwanda).

We are grateful to Maia Gedde who developed the concept, Lucy-Anna Kelly who led its implementation, Tamorah Greenwood who provided initial support, and to Portia Comenetia Allen who is now coordinating the project.


SURF Trustee, David Chaney undertook a follow-up on the systems review conducted by Health Poverty Action in 2010, to ascertain the progress made to strengthen the systems of SURF Rwanda and four of our partner organisations: AVEGA, IBUKA, AERG and GAERG. David travelled to Rwanda twice and developed a QuickBooks training course to strengthen the bookkeeping and financial management of our partner organisations, as well as an array of members of AERG.


The SURF Projects Team, a virtual team of SURF volunteers which provides additional support and capacity on an array of projects and tasks, has grown to 25 participants. Working remotely, the team is proving invaluable in building our capacity to provide more support to our partner organisations, particularly in the translation and editing of documents and reports. The team undertakes various research projects. Special mention goes to Katherine Goldsmith, who has led a number of the projects, and to Matthew Betts, who continues to support our work through the volunteer programme at the LSE

We will empower survivors in the UK to address their own needs

SURF delivered less work with UK-based survivors over the year compared with previous years. This has been due to a strategic decision to focus our resources in the UK on support for survivors in greater need in Rwanda. However, ad hoc support has been provided to individual survivors on a case-by-case basis, supporting them to access counselling and legal representation in particular.

SURF has provided expert witness statements in a number of asylum cases in which survivors have been threatened with deportation. SURF also continues to lobby for the extradition of the four genocide suspects in the UK. The Crown Prosecution Service has not yet pursued cases against these four suspects, yet the UK courts have refused to transfer them to Rwanda.

SURF continues to provide guidance and advice to a number of survivor-led UK-based organisations, including Hope Survivors Foundation, West Midlands Rwanda Community Association and rYico.

Related Posts