On Monday, a specialised team composed of forensics experts, crime scene detectives and other unidentified officials drove in a convoy for two hours to Nyamiyaga village in Gicumbi district for a special mission.
Taarifa has established that this team had gone to the home of parents of cyclist champion Bertin Mukarukundo that recently featured in part of our investigative series on the Rwanda Cycling Federation (Ferwacy).
As expected, the residents of this neighbourhood were suspicious and started gathering closer to this home. Inside the house, Mukarukundo was also present while the mother was seen holding talks with the team.
Several minutes later, the mother led the team to a portion in the banana plantation and pointed at a place where a baby was buried two years ago. A highly suspicious crowd of members of the village grew bigger and bigger.
This joint team of members of Rwanda Forensic Laboratory (RFL), Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) and National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) sealed off this portion with crime scene tape and asked the crowding residents to leave.
Works to dig at this spot begun. It was a grave site where Mukarukundo’s baby lay to rest but two years later this would be a sorrowful, hurting moment for her as these experts exhumed her baby’s body.
Mukarukundo was a burgeoning cyclist winning competition after competition since 2016 when she emerged the best female cyclist in Gicumbi district and was later transferred to Kigali to be a founder member of Inyemera team.
While in Kigali where she received specialised training with other girls from various districts in the country, she got pounced on by her coach and was subjected to forced sex that resulted into pregnancy.
She informed Inyemera team President Ancile Munyenkaka and Ferwacy management and returned to Gicumbi district where she gave birth to a healthy baby girl but two days later mysteriously died. She left the hospital without a postmortem document and not anything at least to indicate cause of death to her baby as would be required of any health facility.
Munyenkaka who also hails from the same district and living close to Mukarukundo’s home, did not show up at hospital or at funeral as culturally and morally required. Ferwacy which was aware of this entire process Mukarundo was going through did not show any support or remorse as required.
Inyemera cycling team coach Straton Nzabazumutima allegedly responsible for forcing Mukarukundo into sex and resultant pregnancy, had admitted before the team management committee meeting that he was ready to provide all necessary support to his housemate (Mukarukundo)- But he has never respected his promise till today.
During the funeral, Nzabazumutima never turned up in capacity as team coach or as alleged father of the baby. In our investigations, Mukarukundo told Taarifa that while she was home pregnant, Nzabazumutima once called her mother and pleaded with her to ‘never take up things to police’ and sent her Rwf10000 which he termed as ‘baby’s milk’.
Mukarukundo tried pursuing this matter with authorities and somehow managed to have Nzabazumutima apprehended but was released after spending few days in police custody.
She didn’t know why he was released without any court process but was informed by a one Emmanuel Murenzi (Technical Director) that it had been found there was no substantial implicating evidence against the cycling coach.
Murenzi is among a list of persons copied in an email sent on May 16th 2017, to Aimable Bayingana the Ferwacy Pesident bringing to their attention of a sexual abuse incidence in which cycling coach Nzabazumutima was involved with.
There was no follow up despite several attempts by Mukarukundo seeking justice from within the federation. She later learnt that Nzabazumutima was denying responsibility and Instead Bayingana the Federation President hired him to coach Muhazi cycling team as Inyemera cycling team got disbanded.
With Inyemera cycling team dismantled, Mukarukundo couldn’t return to cycling and remained hopeless and had a short stint with Karongi cycling team but also dropped out after being provided a contract with complex clauses.
By the time Taarifa came into contact with this cycling champion that seemed helpless, she was engaged in a part time small income job in Karongi district.
Justice Minister Johnston Busingye had earlier over the weekend announced that Nzabazumutima was re-arrested as investigations into this matter were re-opened two years later.
Again early on Tuesday, Minister Busingye warned that Criminal Investigations have been taken to another level of sophistication and that Gender Based Violence inquiries were seriously being stepped up.
“Offenders will deal with lots of heat,” the Minister said, adding that a joint NPPA, RIB and RFL team had taken samples from a long deceased person in investigation of a GBV case involving the paternity of the person.
Campaign Against Sexual Abuse
According to the Ministry of Health’s 2017 survey (Violence against Children), it was found that 48% of those aged 18-24 and 51% of those aged 19-24 reported pregnancy as a result of unwanted sex.
In total, more than quarter of a million children are victims of child labour and sexual abuse in Rwanda.
In October, the Rwanda Patriotic Front Party convened to elect its National Youth Leadership governing committee and one of the main concerns highlighted was unwanted pregnancies among the youths.
“We must focus our efforts on protecting the lives of young people,” said Joseph Tuyisenge, RPF Youth League President.
In 2018, Rwanda launched a five-year nationwide campaign dubbed ‘It Takes every Rwandan To End Child Exploitation’ Campaign aimed at bringing different actors together to relentlessly advocate for an end to child labour and sexual abuse.
Under this campaign everyone is required to highlight this violence when it occurs and hold those responsible to account and to work with victims to make their stories and voices heard.
Government experts warned that victims of sexual abuse especially young girls and boys are forever left scarred physically, emotionally, and psychologically.