Source: Lillian Nakayima and Ignatius Ssuuna, The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Italia Solidale Officials to Explain Missing Billions

Lillian Nakayima and Ignatius Ssuuna


Kigali — Leaders of Italia Solidale, a local church-affiliated NGO diverted to their own pockets about Rwf 3billion meant for orphans, Sunday Times can reveal. The audit report has now been handed to the Supreme Court for scrutiny.

The NGO was set up in 1997 to help over 2000 orphans left vulnerable by the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis. The Permanent Secretary of the Supreme Court, Anne Gahongayire confirmed the development. She said Italia Solidale leaders would soon appear in Nyarugenge Court to explain where they put the funds.

"I have read the report. It is very shocking." She said whoever found culpable will be punished.

"The report indicates that about Rwf 3billion was given to these people but they mismanaged it," Gahongayire said in a telephone interview on Friday.

She said that sometimes money would come and instead of going to the NGO's account, it would end up on individuals' accounts.

Gahongayire pointed out that there were few activities on the ground to show how the Rwf 3billion was used.

Before the Supreme Court ordered the audit, Italia Solidale's intended beneficiaries accused the NGO's leadership of creating 'ghost' orphans.

One guardian, Jean Baptiste Ndoriyobigya, who was representing beneficiaries living around Kigali in 2003, had earlier claimed children from well-to-do families reportedly benefited from the funds before the account was frozen in November last year.

The NGO was founded by two priests; Father Anaclet Mwumvaneza attached to Saint Famille Catholic Church in Kigali, and Father Anthony Kambanda former head of Nyakibanda Seminary in Butare.

The priests reportedly went for further studies and handed over the NGO to Gerald Ndamage and Faustin Ngendahayo. The beneficiaries accuse the duo of diverting the funds.

Ndoriyobigya said those in charge of the NGO were 'using' the orphans as a means of raising billions of francs for their own interests.

The beneficiaries petitioned the Supreme Court requesting an independent audit to establish how much was diverted by the NGO's managers.

In 2006, the national police arrested Ndamage and Ngendahayo, leaders of Rwanda Italia Solidale and dragged them to court but were later released on bail pending investigations.

Both Ngendahayo and Ndamage have in the past denied any wrongdoing, but details of how the NGO spent the money are not clear to date.

There are allegations that some of the leaders diverted the funds since there was no mechanism in place to check the spending.

The Mayor of Nyarugenge district, Origene Rutayisire, had in November 2007 issued a directive that Italia Solidale activities be halted because the NGO was operating illegally.

In a letter signed by the mayor, and addressed to the director of Union de Caisse de Travailleurs (UCT), the bankers of the NGO, he requested that their bank accounts be frozen until an audit was carried out.

Source: Lillian Nakayima and Ignatius Ssuuna, The New Times (Kigali)

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