Africa-Press – Rwanda. Balthazar Ndagijimana, a former combatant and resident of Gisagara District, Southern Province, lost his sight while fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he was a member of the FDLR militia.
After that incident, things were never the same for him. But even after the loss of his sight, he continued living his life in the bush. This was the life he had known for a very long time.
However, this came to an end when he chose to abandon that life and chose to return home in 2018.
The now ex-combatant says he received a warm welcome back home which gave him hope that all was to be well.
The former combatant Balthazar Ndagijimana works on his plantation.
“When I reached my country, they welcomed me well. I was given both financial and social support and within no time, life started getting back to normal,” he says.
As with other ex-combatants, Ndagijimana was later integrated back into the community and reunited with his family as well.
“They gave us back a normal life; I got a better life in terms of feeding, clothing and life in general. We were later integrated back to our communities and families. I was given Rwf60,000 which helped me and my family as well. I was very happy to be back with my family, I even met other members who were born in my absence,” the 46-year-old says.
The support is extended to former militia members and other former combatants by the Government through the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC).
But just as he was beginning to adapt to his new life, Covid-19 hit, bringing with it various challenges that affected Ndagijimana. And the fact that he lived with a disability did not help the situation.
“The pandemic arrived and everything became so hard for everyone in Rwanda and the rest of the world. But in that moment when we didn’t have any solution, RDRC once again came in and took care of us. They gave us financial support of over Rwf400, 000,” he recalls.
With this money, he managed to buy a piece of land and started farming. On top of that, he was able to invest in livestock. Ndagijimana now rears cows, pigs, and chicken, and lives in his own house.
“I am able to feed myself and my family. The commission also constructed a house for me, I now live independently with my wife and child and we are very happy. I am truly grateful, we live in harmony with the community and it’s beautiful,” he says.
He appreciates the commission and its partners for offering him support, not only when he had just returned, but also during the pandemic.
Japan’s support through UNDP
Through UNDP, the Government of Japan has extended financial support to ex-combatants and their families, among other vulnerable groups, to help them deal with the challenges brought about by Covid-19.
According to Alexis Ndayisaba, an official from UNDP, the Government of Japan provided this particular financial support through UNDP Rwanda Office under the global component to the health-related implementation of the Japan Supplementary Budget (JSB) for the Covid-19 response. The resources were used to revamp beneficiaries’ business or develop new and innovative business as a response to the pandemic.
“RDRC received from the JSB scheme US$80,000, through UNDP, to support the ex-combatants of the “Phase 65 Project” to help respond to the impact of the Covid-19. RDRC successfully used these resources and the impact on beneficiaries has been outstanding.”
The project has helped improve the livelihoods of 1053 beneficiaries (320 women and 733 men). They include 18 people living with disabilities (all men), 43 with different illnesses and the most vulnerable in need of emergency support to cater for basic needs, including food, shelter but also to start small income generating activities (IGAs) and increase family income.