How citizens fall victim to lack of legal assistance and justice access

By Elias Hakizimana.

When Esperance Nyirakamana was in love with her partner, she had hope that they will be legally and religiously married, and enjoy a successful, happy marriage and family.  But chances did not go her way as the man with hom he had fell in love was already a husband of another wife whom they were already legally married.

What is worse is that Nyirakamana was impregnated by this man who refused to take care of the child born from their union. Today, the  now 7-year-old child is in primary One in Remera, Gasabo District and his mother is struggling to cater for him as she earns a small wage as a housemaid. She gets difficultues buying Health Insurance and school materials for her son.

“He promised me to live together, we requested official documents for legal marriage together but at the end he refused after impregnating me, he told me he will support me and later refused, he only paid me the health insurance to help me when I gave birth, he also refused to register the child in civil status registry. I respected my duties as a parent and register him on my name, he cannot pay school fees, I am the only one to buy Mituelle de Santé (community-based health insurance), school fees and school materials for my child,” Nyirakamana said. 

Many citizens from Nyarugenge, Gasabo and Kicukiro Districts of Kigali City learning from CSOs exhibition on July 30, 2019.

This mother is fortunately allowed to pursue vocational training skills and is assisted by her employer where she works as a housemaid.

She says she is currently not aware of laws that can protect her or help her to regain her rights, noting that it is the same for many of her colleagues. “I wish that this husband can help me cater for the child,” she noted.

As luck would have it Nyirakamana participated in the two-days CSOs Exhibition by Rwanda Non-Government Organizations working in the Justice Sector that kicked off yesterday at Petit Stade Parking Area- AMAHORO STADIUM-Remera. She was expecting to find the help of someone who can assist her to seek legal assistance.

Local NGOs in the Justice Sector in Rwanda that are showcasing Legal and Human Rights Services at Remera since July 30th to 31st, 2019 give a promising solution to citizens like Nyirakamana and many others who struggle to find legal and justice help for any injustice they face.

Speaking to the media, Me Jean Paul Ibambe, the coordinator of Using ICT to provide Legal Aid to Rwandan Population-845 project within Legal Aid Forum (LAF) who was also exhibiting legal services said that they teach people about laws and their rights as well as assisting them in courts.

He said that the research by LAF of 2012 revealed that citizens fail to get justice services due to the long distance from their neighborhoods to reach to law experts. “It is the reason why we have brought Technology of Toll-Free line “845” to ensure that people can timely access to justice and know their rights as planned for the law. Over 500 people have so far used this line and got help.” Ibambe said.

Jean Paul Ibambe explaining to the citizens all about their rights and legal frameworks when it comes to justice services.

Anastase Nabahire, the coordinator of Justice, Reconciliation, Law and Order Sector Strategy (JRLOS) at Ministry of Justice (MINIJUST) welcomed the initiative of such an exhibition of laws, Human Rights that help people to gain justice services saying that “helping citizens to know the laws is our duty as the government, we are happy today that CSOs are showing citizens what they need to strive for their rights by being aware of laws the country has put in place,” Nabahire said.

Anastase Nabahire, the coordinator of Justice, Reconciliation, Law and Order Sector Strategy (JRLOS)

According to Dr Joseph Ryarasa, the spokesperson of Rwanda Civil Society Platform (RCSP), there is a need for everyone’s efforts in tackling existing challenges that limit them to reach as many as many citizens and teach them about laws. He recommended CSOs to use existing partnership with the government to seek solutions.

RCSP currently mobilizes funds to capacitate CSOs and increase their members’ capacity to do their work properly.

“NGOs in Justice sector need to expand services to districts and many sectors to serve many citizens, we have that space but we need to set strategies that tackle existing challenges. Meanwhile, we request citizens to know that it is their rights to know laws and how to get access to justice services,” Ryarasa noted.

The annual 2 days Exhibition on CSOs activities in Justice and Human Rights is in line with a project “Strengthening Rwandan Civil Society Organizations’ Capacity to Influence Policy” that is funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands and was organised by Rwanda NGOs Forum in Collaboration with members of Coalition who are implementing partners: Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights and Development (GLIHD), Health Development Initiative (HDI), and Ihorere Munyarwanda Organization (I M R O) with the support of JRLOS Secretariat in the Ministry of Justice.

Tom Mulisa, the Executive Secretary of GLHID

Tom Mulisa, the Executive Secretary of GLHID said that in partnership with the Ministry of Justice, they assessed that people, especially town dwellers, are not aware of CSOs who work on justice services, the reason why they organized the exhibition.

“We have learnt that many people face injustice and lack support, they are vulnerable to sexual violence, Gender-Based Violence (GBV), etc. Citizens have to know that there are CSOs that are ready to support them free of charge,” Mulisa noted.

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,(www.rwandainspirer.com) is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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