Rwanda: The burnt marital documents push families in poverty

Families who legally married before the Abacengezi war (1997-2001) suffer from getting various public services due to matrimonial papers burned during this war. They cannot sell a plot to send children at school or overcome any other threat; they only have to complain before courts, or organise a new official marriage.

Indeed, during the Abacengezi (Infiltrators) the registers in which married spouses were registered had been burned. This war (1997-2001) took place in many districts of west and Northern provinces, when former regime soldiers used to coming back and disturb security, with nostalgia to get back on power.

Targeted areas ware communes of former Ruhengeri, Gisenyi, Byumba and Rural Kigali. Among them, Tare, Rushashi, Musasa, Cyungo, and Tumba; which now form the new district of Rulindo.

Marcelline Mukasine, 42,  married since 1995. She complains of having repeatedly requested the marriage certificate in order to sell her plot located in Bushoki sector of Rulindo, but she can’t get. “I do not understand why they do not grant me my rights, while everyone knows that I have been married for 22 years,” she says.

The same to Jean Pierre Hitimana, 55.  He testifies having asked for a land title, but in vain. “Authorities told me either to make a complain to the primary court which would attest the state of the place of my marriage; or simply, agree to organize a another civil marriage”,  says Hitimana, adding that both need money.“He would not find the 25,000 Frws as court fees”.

Authorities  are aware

Peter Claver Nzeyimana, Executive Secretary Bushoki Sector acknowledged the problem that some legally married spouses face when asking for certain services that require the submission of marital documents. “During the war in Abacengezi, some communal offices containing matrimonial registers were burnt, spouses who are not registered anywhere are asked to make a choice: either go to court, to prove that they are legally married, either return to the civil status service to contract another civil marriage, “he said.

Drocella Kayisire, civil status officer in the same area, confirms that several households cannot easily sell their land without having exhibited to the notifying officer, the marriage certificate more basically to the party selling the land. “We suggest the cheapest way, that they come to celebrate their marriage once again in front of the authorized officer, because going to court demands an extra charge of 25,000 RWFs, the most often paying a lawyer too”.

However, sustainable solution has been found with ICT, “Now all the civil status services in the country are online, and nobody will have such a problem in the days to come”.

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Jean Baptiste Karegeya

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