Jean Paul Akayesu, the former Bourgmestre (Mayor) of Taba Commune in Southern Rwanda, was one of the first people arrested and convicted of genocide by the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)
To say that Akayesu was the source of many “firsts” would be an understatement. It was the first time that the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was interpreted and applied. Akayesu was making history.
But he was also making history of a different nature; a nasty one. During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, there were widespread cases of rape. Victims suffered numerous traumatic cases such as unwanted pregnancies or being infected by HIV/Aids.
One of the counts Akayesu was convicted on was rape, and that ruling was very significant. It was the first time Rape was recognised as a weapon of war and constituted an act of genocide.
For the survivors of the rape, life was not a bed of roses. To make matters worse, children born out of rape could not benefit from services designed to help Genocide survivors.
The very fact that the children were born out of a crime of genocide should be a no-brainer. They are victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
It is a very great injustice that, to date, concerned authorities are still hesitating to extend a helping hand to those unfortunate children.
When the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG), Jean Damascène Bizimana, was appearing before a parliamentary standing committee this week, he again raised the issue.
It is hoped that this time authorities will do the right thing. The least they could do is allay the heavy weight victims of Genocide-rape have been carrying on their shoulders for the last two decades and a half.