For twenty years, 1800 Burundi pensioners have maintained a spirited fight in all directions to access their pension but there is no breakthrough.
They have previously petitioned the President’s office, parliament and other platforms with no success. On Thursday, they took the fight to Rwanda’s High court.
In 2013, a deal was reached between Rwanda and Burundi.
Burundi government transferred Burundian francs 111 million (Rwf48 million) to Rwanda.
The money disbursed was channeled through the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) and supposed to be shared between 1,800 claimants.
The payments were transferred under the Arusha Agreement and the Great Lakes region block treaties in which participating countries had agreed to take care of payment of pension of civil servants, once repatriated to their respective countries.
Last year, the government of Rwanda offered to give their pension.
For example, a civil servant (teacher) who was earning Brf50, 000 Burundian francs would have 34% of his salary as contribution and walk away with Rwf100, 800 which he contributed in Burundi for 17 years while working as a secondary school teacher.
Under the legal requirements, social security contributions are made by both the civil servant and employer. One’s pension is calculated by amount of salary in the last five years of service multiplied by the number of years worked.
Such calculations didn’t sink in the ears of some pensioners as most of them are greying off.
“We want our social security contributions sent by the Burundi government in 2013 be used to calculate our pension. Some of us are growing older and can die anytime” said Pierre Claver Kayigi 65, the chief negotiator of the association of Rwandans who worked for Burundi government to court on Thursday.
However, Finance Minister Claver Gatete recently told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Affairs last month that Rwanda couldn’t afford to pay these pensioners because Burundi government didn’t send their real pension.
“We don’t know how much exactly we should be paid because the amount depends on how long one lives” Kayigi said.
Some of them have on several occasions petitioned parliament and president’s office, while some of the claimants agreed to terms of Rwanda government and received their pension.
On Thursday some of the claimants petitioned High court to force government of Rwanda to pay them pension calculated based on original contributions in Burundi.
Standing against two complainant’s defense lawyers, Government lawyer, Myriam Gahongayire, told court that her clients would only present in-depth arguments into the case if the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) is involved in the case.
Presiding High court Judge Fabienne Kabagabe asked both sides to present their cases after the court had earlier on heard their argument in the cases.
Complainants’ defense lawyer, Valence Kamali Nyampatse, also a former civil servant in Burundi,“RSSB should explain why my clients have not been paid pension. This is a public case and it affects many lives of Rwandans who depend on pension of my clients – many of whom are ageing.”
After listening to both sides, High Court judges said that the trial will resume on October 5th, 2017 and RSSB will be represented.