A member of GAERG greets an elderly mother.
The Rwandan graduates Genocide Survivors Organisation (GAERG) is compiling a comprehensive book and a documentary film about the families that were completely wiped out during the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.
The book, to be released next year, is part of telling the stories of the families of genocide victims whose whereabouts have not been known and no traces of any survivors.
“We want the book and the documentary film to be out (published) by April 2020 during Kwibuka26 (26th genocide commemoration),” said Fidele Nsengiyaremye, the GAERG Executive Secretary.
In Rwanda, a family is considered completely wiped out when their property is completely destroyed and no trace of parents and all their children, especially for those affected by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
According to figures from GAERG, since 2009, they have identified 15,593 families whose 68,871 family members were completely wiped out during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Of these families that were wiped out, nearly 30 per cent of them were enumerated in Karongi District in Western Province and Nyamagabe district in Southern Province.
Nsengiyaremye noted that the publications will also include the database of the location of the families that were wiped out during the genocide.
GAERG’s efforts to have detailed information on these families comes months after the Senate committee on political affairs, in March, presented a report on survivor’s welfare that showed concerns of some survivors having an identity crisis.
The Senate report showed that some of the survivors (now grown) don’t know where they survived from since they were saved by Samaritans at a very infant age during the genocide and no one has been traced.
GAERG said that collection and preservation of the country’s and survivors’ history is way or signal of defeating genocide denial, which is currently on the decline in Rwanda but increasing abroad, according to the October 2019 Senate report findings.
The National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) says that GAERG has championed commemoration of completely wiped out families which would have no people to commemorate them since all their family members were killed.
Dr Jean Damascene Bizimana, CNLG Executive Secretary says that the young men and women at GAERG have been very active in publishing pieces of literature that reveal facts about genocide and fighting denial.
“GAERG has been publishing several facts about the Genocide and that is important in minimizing Genocide denial because they are standing as a manifestation of survival,” Bizimana said.
From Child Family Heads to Success Adults
Behind these efforts lie stories of success which actually push the genocide survivors, most of them who were children taking care of other children survivors 25 years ago.
The idea of survivor families started with the formation of Associations of student survivors (AERG) in 1996, as an important element even for those who had become adults and started a new life after graduating from universities.
“I think without these families, we would become unmanageable people, failures in managing our lives and a burden to Rwandan society,” said Alphonse Nkuranga, a former Executive Secretary of the body (2007).
In 2003, graduates started an organization that would be made of parents and relatives as it was in AERG and they called it GAERG.
In collaboration with survivors’ fund (SURF), GAERG has since 2017 supported 25 members (including 22 start-ups) with capital funding through the Generation Innovation Development Fund (GIDF).
Pascal Ndayambaje in charge of Business Development at GAERG said that “those who were given the support through GIDF include a bread factory, flour making factory and an online services company.”
One of them is Regis Mugiraneza – a manager at Carl Group – a bread factory that makes bread from sweet potatoes, supplying to more than 20 supermarkets in the capital Kigali and needed expansion.
“Late last year, I received Rwf7.5 million for the more facilities in the factory. I machine operators but I needed installation, packaging, authorisation from a standards body and many more,” he said.
Samuel Mfitumukiza, a former freelancer mechanic who used to move with his toolbox around Kigali to find a vehicle to fix, said:.
“When I presented my business proposal to GAERG, I received a loan such that I can set up a spare-parts shop at Muhima in Kigali,” Mfitumukiza said as he aims at widening his business into a full garage.
According to Ndayambaje, some have finished servicing the loans of which three want to go for more loans.