Hassan Mutabazi was one of the many Genocide victims that gathered in a small house in the village of Kabuga last week.
The Best Hope Rwanda charity was holding a meeting to collect the names of mothers whose children were born of rape during the time of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
Mutabazi’s father was killed in the Genocide while the mother died in 1998 of HIV/Aids. He is here to support his younger brother whose birth is linked to Mutabazi’s reason for surviving the Genocide against the Tutsi.
“My mother was very beautiful and the militia repeatedly raped her in front of us. That is why they spared us,” Mutabazi recounts.
Mutabazi’s youngest brother was born as a result of the rape, and for the past 15 years, Mutabazi has been acting as his parent.
How it all began
Best Hope Rwanda aims at easing the resentment the mothers and children feel for one another as a result of the past. The organisation assists with healthcare, counselling and education for both the women and the children.
Best Hope Rwanda is assisting 80 women and 110 children. The founder of the organisation, Dieudonne Gahizi Ganza, decided to start Best Hope Rwanda after shooting a documentary on the suffering the families were subjected to for the past 19 years.
“Some women were still suffering physically and emotionally from rape during the Genocide. Many of them were still bleeding because they had not received proper medical care,” Ganza says.
Ganza also lost many relatives during the Genocide, and at the age of 26, he decided he could not walk away from these women.
“Before, these children were called “little killers” and “children of bad memories” but this is now changing,” he says.
Bringing people together
The names of the growing number of beneficiaries were taken down. Canadian journalist Sue Montgomery had come along to connect with the women and children through cooking.
“Rwanda has the most incredible vegetables and I wanted to show the women how to make the most of this,” Montgomery says.
The chopping of carrots, tomatoes, celery and green peppers began, with intermittent laughter, food fights and the exchange of cooking techniques dominated the afternoon.
“Cooking is a way of bringing people together. Everyone loves eating,” Montgomery says.
At the end of the meeting and cooking, Montgomery thanked everyone for their involvement and emphasised the importance of a media presence at such events.
“Media will help inform the world about the plight of these women and children because one cannot imagine how difficult it is to be a rape survivor,” Montgomery adds.
The blurred lines for victims
For someone like Mutabazi, the lines guiding post-Genocide support are slightly more blurred. He has no mother to attend the Best Hope meetings, nor was he born out of rape.
After school, he trained as an electrician but he is yet to find a job. Both him and his brother are HIV-positive.
“Ganza helps my brother with schooling and medicine,” Mutabazi says. But the question remains, who will help Mutabazi?
The role of FARG
Ezra Mutwara is the Director of Finance and Administration for the Fund for support of Genocide survivors (FARG).
Beginning in January, FARG has earmarked Rwf60 million to help women victims of the Genocide.
According to public policy, the children born out of rape after 1994 are not considered Genocide victims.
However, Mutwara believes the children are indirectly affected by the funding and support FARG provides to the mothers.
“Although we cannot fund an organisation that is not working within the FARG framework, if a charity like Best Hope was to work closely with local administration, we could help with phase-by-phase funding to make sure the charity is working within the standards of FARG,” Mutwara says.
Mutabazi’s story is relayed to both Ganza and Mutwara.
“The question surrounding Mutabazi is a valid one. We hope to help all victims of the Genocide in the future. For now, we are working on getting funding, both from FARG and private donors,” Ganza says.
Mutwara says Mutabazi is clearly a victim of the Genocide and, therefore, qualifies to be a FARG beneficiary.
“He should approach FARG for further training. Our aim is to assist victims in all possible ways,” Mutwara says.
With the growing number of Genocide victims reaching out for help, the value of both public and private assistance is of equal urgency.
“We applaud organisations like Best Hope,” Mutwara said.
He realised that there is only so much that each organisation can achieve. Fully aware of this limitation, Ganza was one of the speakers at the National Dialogue earlier this month. His message was pressing.
“The counselling of women and children is something that has been overlooked. If this is not dealt with now, the impact of this trauma on the children will become a bigger problem in the future,” Ganza said.
Mutabazi’s story is a lesson for organisations and Genocide victims alike. With the SURF Survivors Fund estimating 300,000 to 400,000 survivors of the Genocide, the collaboration of a variety of organisations is vital for Rwanda’s continued journey of reconciliation and healing.