Time for reflection on the journey so far, but also what still needs doing

Wednesday April 10 2019


Children born out of rape during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi lack programmes that cater to their needs. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA  

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Rwanda is commemorating the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi for the 25th time, a painful episode in its history that has remained with the country like a grotesque facial scar.

The genocide, which left close to a million people dead, devastated the country beyond imagination, totally decimating political, economic and social structures — with many at the time calling it a failed state.

In 1994, Rwanda’s life expectancy for men was at its lowest; 27.45 years and 30.54 years for women, infant mortality rate was 124.8, while foreign debt was equivalent to 85 per cent of the country’s GDP.

But behold, Rwanda prevailed. 25 years later, the country is a case study on how a developing country can achieve 90 per cent health coverage for its people, and with a life expectancy of 67.13 years.

Rwanda’s economy grows at a strong 7.2 per cent and has been occasionally ranked as one of the most secure countries in the world.

But the country still has its problems, a large segment of its citizens are still living in abject poverty, high levels of youth unemployment, acute income inequality — where it is common to find squalor and grandeur on the same hill.

Most of the problems that still bedevil Rwanda have their roots in the genocide, which left many people poor and vulnerable.

Genocide revisionism and denial are also still prevalent as factors that still hamper healing.

There are over 400,000 genocide survivors, and many of them lost entire families and property, while some of them came out infected with HIV/AIDS.

Over 500,000 women are estimated to have been raped during the 100 days of genocide, and up to 20,000 children are reported to have been born to women who were raped.

More than 67 per cent of women who were raped in the genocide were infected with HIV/AIDS, and as of 2013, there were still 21,039 exceptionally vulnerable survivors.

The government established a number of institutions to support the people who were made vulnerable by the genocide.

However, many survivors are yet to get back their family property, with some still living in absolute poverty, which has intensified the problem of trauma among survivors.

Perhaps the group of genocide victims that has been neglected the most are children out of rape.

These children are now 24 years of age, but many of them didn’t even attain any education due to poverty, yet FARGE excluded them because they don’t fit the definition of genocide survivors.

Many of them suffer acute cases of trauma and have never even received any help. It is high time the government devised a deliberate project to reach out and empower these children.