Eight months ago, a Rwandan female cycling champion, Bertin Mukarukundo, suffered a heartbreaking incidence as state detectives exhumed the body of her child as part of a scientific paternity investigation.
The young and ambitious cyclist, Mukarukundo was a teenager when she was sexually abused by her trainer while at a shared house in Remera, Kigali.
In 2016 she had won sector cycling tournament and selected to join other female cyclists in Kigali.
This encounter with team coach, Straton Nzabazumutima resulted into a pregnancy, which she concealed for fear of being fired by the cycling association and how family would react.
Mukarukundo continued cycling until she was almost six months pregnant and couldn’t cycle beyond that stage; “I decided to meet Munyenkaka Ancile, the team patron. I opened up to her about what happened to me and informed her I was going back home to my village in Gicumbi.”
With such a revelation Munyenkaka called for an urgent meeting the following day and the matter was discussed.
“It is from that meeting that the team coach Nzabazumutima admitted what he had done to me and put everything in writing,” Mukarukundo recounted her ordeal to Taarifa eight months ago.
“I agree to take full responsibility and I’m ready to provide all necessary support to that girl that got pregnant from my house,” Nzabazumutima said in part of the letter signed February 20, 2017.
After this meeting, Mukarukundo was immediately handed the letter and travelled to her village in Nyamiyaga sector.
She later gave birth but the baby died days after in very mysterious circumstances that have never been explained but Mukarukundo suspects foul play.
“My baby was very well at birth, I started breast feeding her then later doctors took her away from me saying she was crying a lot. I would go to where she was and feed her. However, two days later the doctors came to me and told me the baby had died,” Mukarukundo recounted with excruciating pain.
This tormented cyclist narrated that when she gave birth, “I informed our cycling team management and when my baby died, I also informed them but there was no form of support or help. I was just ignored and buried my baby.”
According to Mukarukundo, she doesn’t understand why doctors at the hospital did not give any document showing what caused the death of the baby.
This matter, so complex and involving influential persons was swept under the carpet until Taarifa took interest in it three years later.
At the beginning of this year, a specialised team composed of forensics experts, crime scene detectives and other unidentified officials drove for two hours to Nyamiyaga village in Gicumbi district for a special mission at Mukarukundo’s parents’ home.
The forensic team was led to a portion in the banana plantation and showed a spot where a baby was buried years ago. A highly suspicious crowd of members of the village grew bigger and bigger.
The team from Kigali was composed of members of Rwanda Forensic Laboratory (RFL), Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) and National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA).
The burial spot was sealed off with crime scene tape and asked the crowding residents to leave.
It was a horrifying, sorrowful and hurting moment for Mukarukundo and parents watching these experts exhumed the body of an innocent soul.
National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) had reopened investigations into sexual abuse case in which a cycling coach Nzabazumutima had allegedly been involved in years earlier.
“Am aware, now, that NPPA has decided to reopen this investigation. One suspect Nzabazumutima Straton has been taken in custody as investigation continues,” Justice Minister, Johnston Busingye said on December 15, 2019.
Mukarukundo has been as patient as she waits for a miracle to happen and receive justice.
Mukarukundo explained that she wants justice; her dignity restored and be able to return to the cycling sport.
Since Rwanda Investigations Bureau forensic experts took samples from Gicumbi, they have not shared the findings.
“I am told that Nzabazumutima was first rearrested and detained at Kicukiro police station then later transferred to Nyarugenge prison in Mageragere,” Mukarukundo told Taarifa in an exclusive interview as a follow up on this prolonged journey aimed at seeking justice.
“I trust the institutions but it is taking too long and I was told to keep waiting,” Mukarukundo told Taarifa, adding that currently she is at home preparing for her sister’s wedding scheduled for September 2020.