Hidden victims of Rwanda’s genocide

A 24-year-old Rwandan whose mother was raped in the genocide tells the BBC how he came to learn of the circumstances of his birth. Their names have been changed because of the shame surrounding rape, which still exists to this day.

Jean-Pierre says it was a form asking for his parents’ names at the end of primary school which first made him question who exactly his father was.

“I did not know him – I did not know his name,” he says.

Not having a father at home was not unusual: many other children may have been fatherless – more than 800,000 people were killed during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. But they knew their father’s name.

He had heard the village whispers, and the names people would call him – but it would take years for him to finally learn the whole truth.

The story, his mother Carine says firmly, “is not something to take at one time”.

“He had heard different information. He heard gossip. Everyone in the community knows I was raped. There was nothing I could do about it,” she explains.

“My son kept asking who his father was. But among 100 men or more who raped me, I could not tell the father.”

Exactly how many children were born as a result of rape during the 100-day massacre in 1994 is not known.

Efforts are being made by the United Nations (UN) to end conflict-related sexual violence – rape was used as a weapon of war from Syria to Colombia and from Democratic Republic of Congo to Myanmar last year.

Survivors are sharing stories on social media using the hashtag #EndRapeinWar to mark the UN’s day to eliminate sexual violence in war.

But it is not easy for those involved to recall the events – even a quarter of a century later. Hearing Carine’s story, it is clear why she waited until her son was old enough to hear the truth.

She was about the same age as him the first time she was raped, one of hundreds of thousands mainly Tutsi women and girls believed to have been sexually assaulted by Hutu neighbours, militia and soldiers. –BBC

Show More
Back to top button