The High Court in Kigali is hearing the appeal in a case of two siblings accusing their cousin of confiscating their family land.
The plaintiffs who lost the case at Gasabo intermediate court before appealing the high court said the cousin lied that they had died during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi and he posed as the next of kin.
The land wrangle involving Immaculée Mukamuhirwa and Pierre Celestin Muhirwa against their cousin Fabien Niyonsenga is two decades old.
The court heard on Thursday October 18, 2018 that in 1999 when Mukamuhirwa got a visa for Belgium, his cousin started process to register a plot of land located in Matwari, a village in Gasabo district, Ndera sector, Masoro cell.
The land, said Mukamuhirwa, was bought by late his father who was an employee of the then Ministry of Youth at a tune of Rwf20, 000 before the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
“We took care of this young man, paid his scholarship up to university, but see what he is rewarding us. We came from Belgium because of that family sentiment to save that plot which is the only land we call home,” said Mukamuhirwa.
“He would tell people that we died during the Genocide, but whenever we talked he would convince us he is taking good care of everything. We did not know his ill intentions.”
Niyonsenga who did not have a lawyer told court that he registered the land after his family shared their family inheritance and they decided that the piece of land his father had bought would belong to him.
“In the Aftermath of the Genocide, I was quick to present myself to local leaders and to confirm ownership of the plot which I inherited from my father,” said Niyonsenga.
“In 2010 when the country was registering land and issuing land titles, I also adjusted. From village level up to District level, I proved that the land belonged to me and I have authentic documents,” said the defendant.
Rugema Juru Cecile, the presiding judge in this trial said the complainants do not disagree that the documents are authentic, but their concern is that he would have lied all the way through, to own the property.
A new revelation was also made at court, that the mother of the defendant is alive, while previously he said that he is the only survivor in the family.
His sibling, a young brother was also present at court.
It is a case among many – Ibuka
Ibuka, the umbrella of Genocide survivors’ association told KT Press that the case involving the three relatives is just a sample of land issues that they have been facing for the last 24 years.
Naphtali Ahishakiye, the Secretary General of Ibuka told KT Press; “Such cases are many and they are in several forms; we have families of relatives who sell off properties of child survivors, and when they complain, those guardians pretend that they don’t know them.”
Ahishakiye said, some Genocide survivors do not know their identity just because they came out of orphanages and their relatives who wanted to confiscate their property did not acknowledge their relationship.
Last year, the Prime Minister put in place a task force to recover property in 1000 cases of land confiscated by relatives or neighbors from genocide survivors across the country.
Ahishakiye said, the challenge they are encountering is that “institutions refuse to solve the wrangles which are in courts. In the process, complainants lose their properties.
Meanwhile, the case of the three relatives will resume on September 27, 2018 with the court hearing witnesses from both sides.