Summary of the Year

Here we describe a selection of our work in the year ending 31 December 2012, and look forward to the work that we plan to undertake in 2013. We have included a series of case studies from projects, to highlight some of the achievements, as well as opportunities for the work ahead.


While the rights to reparation for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity continue to positively evolve in international law, the 309,000 survivors of the 1994 genocide committed against Tutsi in Rwanda still face several legal difficulties in securing reparations for crimes committed during the genocide. Nineteen years on from the genocide, these survivors have yet to receive effective or adequate reparation, remedy or redress which is their right under international law.

The reparation verdict delivered by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in August 2012, in the case of Thomas Lubanga, marked a milestone development in international criminal law and serves as a precedent for the establishment of a framework for reparation to victims of international humanitarian law violations.  In Rwanda, following the closure of gacaca, all outstanding cases that fell within the remit of these grassroots courts will now be referred to ordinary courts. However, there are numerous inconsistencies in how compensation procedures are initiated and determined for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda. In the midst of this uncertainty, the judiciary in Rwanda should follow the example of the ICC’s reparation principles to ensure that meaningful and effective reparation principles relating to genocide cases are set out to address several ambiguities that surround reparation proceedings currently before Rwanda’s courts.

Currently a number of laws and ongoing draft laws deliberately limit survivors’ right to reparation for victims, and hinder its probable application even in the future. In April 2012, SURF supported IBUKA, the national umbrella association of survivor’s organisations in Rwanda, to submit a response to the then draft Organic Law terminating gacaca. This response called on the Government of Rwanda to incorporate the right of genocide survivors to reparation within that law. In September, we supported IBUKA to submit a further response to the Draft Presidential Order on the implementation of Community Service (TIG) as an alternative penalty to imprisonment. Not only did this legislation fail to protect the right of survivors to reparation, it infringed on their right to do so, namely to claim restitution or compensation for looted or damaged property from insolvent perpetrators in cases where they become solvent.

Over the ten years of gacaca, restitution of property looted and pillaged during the 1994 genocide was the only tangible form of reparation available to survivors. Tens of thousands of restitution awards were made to survivors. However, as is also the case with the 4,000 reparation awards made by specialised chambers since 1996, most awards have not been enforced.

Persistent failure to enforce awards of court and gacaca judgments has a significant adverse impact upon survivors’ lives, as well as on survivors’ perceptions of justice processes initiated by the Government of Rwanda, third countries and the UN (“international community”). To date:

  • Survivors interviewed by SURF and REDRESS unanimously state that justice has not been served, as it has not included compensation;
  • Interviews and seminars organised by survivor’s organisations in collaboration with SURF and REDRESS suggest that the inadequate responses to calls for compensation and restitution slows down, and even hampers, progress towards reconciliation;
  • Survivors have expressed their fear that their right to compensation will never be addressed, especially now that gacaca has closed and the ICTR is coming to an end.

Given the specific nature and scale of the 1994 genocide, in which hundreds of thousands of ordinary and often poor civilians actively participated in the killing of Tutsi and the destruction of property, a comprehensive reparations mechanism set up by the government would be the most effective means of realising the right of survivors to reparation. However, to date this has failed to materialise due to a lack of political will, alleged limited funding and a narrow awareness of the reparation beyond assistance to only the most vulnerable survivors, through FARG (Government Assistance Fund for Vulnerable Survivors).

Since 2010, SURF in partnership with REDRESS, and in conjunction with IBUKA, have conducted research on possible mechanisms to deliver reparations to genocide survivors in Rwanda, out of which a discussion paper was published in October 2012, No Justice Without Reparation. It incorporates the views of survivors, and draws on the experience of other post-conflict countries, as to how best the issue of reparation can be addressed. The main recommendation calls on the Government of Rwanda to establish a Task Force on Reparations with the necessary resources to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the situation for a report that will serve as a roadmap for the Government of Rwanda to finally address this issue.

SIP Evaluation

In October, SURF published the independent evaluation report assessing the impact of the two-year HIV+ Survivors Integration Project (SIP) funded by Comic Relief.

Through our two partner organisations AVEGA Agahozo and Solace Ministries, this project sought to extend holistic support and ensure the successful integration into the public health system of 1,375 HIV+ women survivors, as well as extending access to income-generating activities to 1,626 HIV+ women survivors, and educational support to over 3,000 of their dependents.

The evaluation report concluded:

“SIP has ably demonstrated the way in which judicious interventions in a complex policy and political context can mobilise potential within a disadvantaged population that is otherwise easily written off. SIP is important, not so much as a demonstration of what still remains to be done 18 years after the Genocide, but rather as a demonstration of just how much still can be done.”

The pioneering approach to livelihood development established through SIP is now being extended by SURF through the Widowed Survivors Empowerment Project (WSEP) and the Genocide Widows Empowerment Project (GWEP). The effectiveness of this approach is commented on further in the evaluation report:

“The development of more carefully structured approaches to Income Generating Activities in collaboration with an independent micro-finance institution, appears on early indications to have been an extraordinary success, resulting in 100% repayments of loans, significant increases in member’s daily consumption and monthly savings. Enhanced economic resilience has had significant positive impacts on women’s self-confidence and self-esteem, with corresponding benefits in social dynamics.”

As such, we plan to prioritise the scaling up of this work over the years ahead.

Community Counselling Initiative

Tutsi women were raped and often mutilated during the 1994 genocide.  Victim and witness testimonies confirm that women were subject to sexual brutality. Most women directly threatened with death were spared only to be raped.

Children born of these rapes are often identified with the perpetrator rather than the victim. They are known, and often referred to in their villages, as “unwanted children”, “children of the Interhamwe” or “children of bad memories.” There is a critical need to educate and empower the mothers on issues of parenting and disclosure, to enable them to build and strengthen their relationships with their children. In turn, this will help the children to understand their unique circumstance, and to reduce their marginalisation and isolation.

In partnership with Kanyarwanda and Foundation Rwanda, SURF has piloted a community counselling initiative to provide mothers raped during the genocide with ongoing psychological support. This will foster a secure environment where disclosure can be decided upon and managed by the mothers. For those mothers that choose not to disclose to their children, tools are being provided to enable them to deal with the social and emotional issues when they arise.

The community counselling initiative has enabled 40 mothers to meet in facilitated groups in their local areas, to discuss issues of parenting and disclosure, as well as broader issues of trauma and coping with individual life circumstances. This community counselling gives women the opportunity to receive support from trained counsellors, as well as their peers, in the security of their own communities, which is also developing strong support networks.

Following an evaluation of this pilot, the plan is to expand this programme to an additional 800 mothers who are receiving education support for their children from Foundation Rwanda, many of which have requested such training.

Project Umubano

Project Umubano is the UK Conservative Party Social Action project in Rwanda and Sierra Leone. Since 2007, Survivors Fund (SURF) has helped with the organisation of the project, providing support in-country for the visiting delegation. In addition, each year a team from the delegation works on a community project co-developed between SURF and the Project Umubano team.

In 2011, we developed and delivered an intensive capacity building practicum with SURF’s partner organisations. This included providing support and training on programme proposal development for projects in the fields of solar power, gender-based violence, and bicycle transport.

This year, we replicated that successful approach, but with a focus on advocacy. Over the course of two weeks, the Project Umubano team worked with our partner organisations, coaching them on an array of vital skills for effective advocacy; from strategic planning to how to mobilise the media to lobbying.

The focus of the project was to develop a series of real-life advocacy projects, which the partner organisations competitively pitched (to a panel of “dragons”) for a fund of £10,000. The projects ranged from a campaign to secure support for older widows (AVEGA Southern and Western Regions) to a campaign to secure counselling and legal support for student survivors (AERG and GAERG).

The panel of dragons, which included Stephen Crabb MP, Leader of Project Umubano, and Emma McClarkin MEP, had a challenging job of determining which projects to fund. However, a decision was reached to split the funding between three projects, with the coalition of IBUKA and Kanyarwanda receiving £5,000 for a pilot project to advocate for property rights of survivors in Kigali, AERG and GAERG receiving £3,000, and AVEGA receiving £2,000.

The projects are progressing well. AERG and GAERG have published their research on student survivors, which has resulted in the establishment of a Prime Minister’s Task Force on the issue. AVEGA has secured national broadcast coverage of the issue of older widows, and a commitment from the Government of Rwanda to address the issue in 2013.

Kigali Language Exchange

In partnership with AERG (Association of Student Survivors of Genocide), SURF has helped develop 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 are to be reinvested into the Education into Employment programme, which AERG continues to coordinate for university students in Rwanda.

KLE was initiated based on a need within Rwanda – which has recently transitioned from being a Francophone to an Anglophone country, 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 necessary funds to support on-going running costs of the Education into Employment Programme.

With the experience SURF and AERG gained in teaching English to University students, through the Education into Employment Programme, the organisations are well positioned to scale up and offer high quality language training to businesses and professionals within the corporate domain in Kigali.

KLE has been in operation since September 2011, and is currently delivering training to an array of organisations – including a number of other SURF partners (AVEGA, IBUKA and Kanyarwanda) as well as other international organisations, such as Oxfam Rwanda, in order to strengthen their English.


SURF supported a number of commemoration events to mark the eighteenth anniversary of the genocide in April 2012, including survivor-led events in Birmingham and Reading, in partnership with the Rwanda Community Associations in the West Midlands and Berkshire. SURF Rwanda supported a number of commemoration events in Rwanda.

In addition, SURF has supported Holocaust Memorial Day since its inception in the UK in 2001. In 2012, we organised a programme of events for Holocaust Memorial Day in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets around the theme of “Speak Up, Speak Out” which featured a film and interfaith commemoration focused on the genocide in Rwanda in particular. This partnership was extended in 2013, with SURF facilitating for a survivor to share their experience of the genocide in Rwanda at the national event in London.

Charity Chair of the Year

In September, Liliane Umubyeyi, Co-Chair of Survivors Fund (SURF) from 2007 to 2012 was awarded the Third Sector Excellence Award for Chair of the Year. This is awarded to the chair of a charity’s trustees who has made the most outstanding contribution to the performance of the charity during the year.

Liliane retired as Co-Chair at our AGM this year, in order to focus on her university studies and family. However, she remains in post as a trustee of SURF, and remains as committed as ever to advocate for and support survivors of the genocide in Rwanda.

Liliane moved to the UK from Rwanda in 2000 after losing almost all of her family in the genocide of 1994.

Since arriving in the UK, she has volunteered for SURF, and in 2004, she was appointed to the trustee board. In 2007, she was named co-chair, becoming the first survivor to be appointed to the position at the charity.

During her time at SURF, Liliane has spoken regularly at schools and community events about the genocide, and played a crucial role in helping to manage and strengthen the relationships between SURF and our partner organisations in Rwanda. On several visits to Rwanda in recent years, her linguistic skills, local cultural knowledge and understanding of survivors’ needs have proved invaluable to enable her to be trusted and respected as “an honest broker” by our partner organisations.

Justin Davis Smith, Chief Executive of Volunteering England and an award judge, commented on the award: “It’s a truly inspirational story of courage and commitment in the face of appalling personal suffering.”

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