Genocide survivors’ compensation should not delay, warns Minijust.
By Theophile Harushyamagara, Rwanda Focus.
The permanent secretary in the ministry of justice, Isabelle Kalihangabo, has warned no trial concerning property refunds related to the 1994 genocide against Tutsis should take more than a year because the process is clear.
The warning comes after the permanent secretary was notified of some cases where survivors complain that local leaders interfere and prolong the property refund trials.
For example, in Nyanza sector, Gisagara, the Gacaca court had declared that genocide survivors whose properties were destroyed during the Genocide should be refunded by the perpetrators, who the court said have enough assets to do so.
However, the survivors are complaining that it has been a year since they started process to get the payment by convicted genocide perpetrators, but to no avail, as they affirm they have yet to receive full reimbursement. They also accuse sector authorities of being reluctant to execute the Gacaca court order.
As result, they claim they live in poverty and are frustrated as they feel those who destroyed their properties are not being pushed enough by local leaders to refund them.
In 2013, the survivors affirm they have been asked to seek an enforceable stamp from the local administration to get the Gacaca decision executed.
One of them, Omar Gashema, now 35, says they that when he was 15, his relatives were killed and their two houses destroyed during the Genocide. He adds that the Gacaca court ruled that the two destroyed houses had a combined valuation of Frw 3.8 million and should be refunded by 13 convicted people, but until today, he has only received Frw 250,000.
He says that he followed the entire procedure to get the compensation, but he hasn’t heard from the people who destroyed the properties though he affirms they have sufficient means. He points out that he even wrote to the sector authorities notifying them of the problem, but is yet to receive a reply.
“I don’t know what I can do to get my compensation. It is not a problem of lack of money to refund me [from convicted perpetrators], or something else – the problem is the people in charge of executing the order to get refund are not doing their job,” alleges Gashema, who says it is now six months since he had his refund document sealed with an enforceable stamp.
Fear of reprisals
Gashema is one of only a few survivors in the region who accept to make a statement, because most fear reprisals from the local leaders.
Bertilde Mukagakire, the president of the survivors’ association at the sector level, affirm she has been involved in getting survivors their compensation.
“We know this problem. We tried to plead for them, but the process doesn’t proceed as it should – there is clearly deliberate hindrance,” Mukagakire said.
According to her, there is a lack of initiative to seize the properties that could be used in the compensation process.
Jean Bosco Uwimana, the Nyanza sector executive secretary, however gives assurance that the problem will be solved by the end of this year.
However, Minijust permanent secretary Kalihangabo thinks it has already taken too long. “When you get the enforceable stamp, the cell and sector executive secretaries are ordered by the law to execute the Gacaca decision. The law provides for the length of the procedure depending on the case, but here one year is too much,” she said.
She points out that if the enforceable stamp has been sealed, and that the property to be used for compensation is there, she sees no reason why the process would stall, and that if need be, the law provides the use of force to execute a Gacaca ruling.
Kalihangabo concludes that if need be, survivors can file a case in ordinary courts to ensure their rights are respected.