Rwanda is facing a monumental crisis. Government data shows that since 2016 to end of 2019, a total of 78,646 girls under 18 years were impregnated by men – some fit to be their grandfathers. The eastern province accounts for biggest number at 36.1% of the cases, southern at 21%, northern with 16.5% western at 15.2%, and Kigali with 11.2%.
An interagency campaign involving the Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB), the gender and family promotion ministry together with the local government ministry have since September been moving across the country carrying out sensitization. The crisis is so serious that voices are increasingly pushing to make birth control pills and other contraceptives available to girls as young as 15 years. President Paul Kagame is opposed to any such move, largely due to influence of the Catholic Church.
RIB figures show that 4,265 men were convicted in 2019-2020 period for defiling underage girls, which is less than 20% of the men involved for a single year. But what pushes men to go after young girls? What tactics do these men use to lure the girls? Or perhaps, could the convicted men be victims of a government eager to show a shocked population that it is doing something? For the first time, we go into the minds of these men. We have obtained their testimony and confessions they made to investigators, and also what they said in court before conviction.
We obtained court documents of 15 random men each serving more than 20 years, up to life in jail. At least half of the men give near-exact similar narrations of what happened; claiming the girls had willingly consented to have sex with them and also that the girls had lied about their age but didn’t bother to ask for ID. For all the cases, the girl victims are not identified by names, instead court documents record initials of their names. Below is except of our exposé;
Aged 26, from Nganda village, Nganda cell, Musaza sector, Kirehe district. He was living with a 14 year-old girl between October 10-17, 2020, when he was arrested and charged. During interrogation, he told RIB that he was living with the girl as “husband and wife”, that they had had sex three times, and that her parents were not aware. To investigators and in court, he is recorded to have said: “The girl affirmed to me she was 21 years though she didn’t show me her ID. I plead for a reduced sentence.”
In court and to investigators, the alleged girl victim said they had sex during all the seven days when they were together. Court found Muhayimana guilty of defilement and sentenced him to 25 years in jail.
From Akagarama village, Nyarusange cell, Muhazi sector, Rwamagana district, was accused of defiling 17 year-old girl who was a househelp in one of the homes in his area. Court documents show he confessed he had been “in love” with the girl for over a year when he was arrested following a tipoff to Police by her employer.
Niyonzima was arrested October 13, 2020, but circumstances before the arrest, are conflicting. RIB dossier to court says he was arrested red-handed defiling the girl. However, though he admitted to the case of luring underage girl into sex, he told court he was arrested as he had visited the girl to give her money as she was sick. Also, Niyonzima told court the girl was “two months pregnant” when he was arrested. In his confession to court, Niyonzima said: “I admit to case of sexually abusing her, but she had told me she was 20 years.”
Court sentenced him to 22 years and three months.
Manirabarusha Jean Pierre
From Nyagahanga village, Nyankurazo cell, Kigarama cell, Kirehe district, was jailed for impregnating 16 year-old girl. In court, Manirabarusha pleaded guilty but pointed out that he doubts the baby was his because he apparently found the girl was “not a virgin”.
Here is how court recorded his testimony: “We began dating on November 20, 2019, and she gave birth on August 14, 2020. I do not hail from this area. The girl told me she was 19 years before we had sex. In January 2020, she told me she was pregnant. I questioned her whether the pregnancy was mine which she confirmed. But then later, she telephoned to tell me she wasn’t pregnant. After sometime, she telephoned me telling me she was pregnant. I told her I was eager to see the baby. Sometime later, she showed up at my home with a baby saying the baby was mine. I gave her Rwf 2,000. I went to her parent’s home and she confirmed the baby was mine. I paid them Rwf 10,000. Sometime later, she abandoned the baby at my home and left. I told her I was committed to take care of her and the baby, but she told me she was in love with another man.”
In summing up his defense, Manirabarusha pleaded guilty to defilement, but refused to accept the baby. Court sentenced him to 22 years.
Aged 33, from Kinamba village, Kiyanzi cell, Nyamugali sector, Kirehe district, was accused of defiling 17 year-old girl. During questioning by RIB and in court, Nzabanita denied defiling the girl. Instead, he explained that he found out she was an orphan and rented a house for her.
Nzabanita explained: “[The girl] told me she was 20 years old. We had consensual sex and she later informed me she was pregnant. I accepted the pregnancy without any doubt. I rented a house for her because I also had another woman carrying my pregnancy for whom I had also rented a house. I lived alone, and they also lived alone.”
Court sentenced him to life in prison.
Age 25, from Isovu village, Gafunzo cell, Sake sector, Ngoma district, was accused of defiling 16 year old girl. Prosecution told court that Nizeyimana had been living with the girl since 2017 and they had 2 children. In court, Nizeyimana said he never bothered about the girl’s age because he had asked her parents for approval of their union.
Court records show he said: “I found out the girl’s exact age a week after we began living together but I couldn’t send her away. I pray to court to give me a suspended sentence so that I go back home and look after our young children.”
Court sentenced Nizeyimana to 25 years for defilement.
From Nyagakombe village, Kimbazi cell, Munyiginya sector, Rwamagana district was found guilty of defiling 15 year-old pupil at a primary school where he was working as security guard. Nizeyimana pleaded guilty to the crime, but in his defense said the girl and her mother informed him she was 18 years old. He said he was arrested as they prepared to start living together.
Nizeyimana told court that the girl victim and her mother did plead with the authorities after his arrest, to free him so that he would take care of the girl. Their plea was dismissed, according to Nizeyimana. Court sentenced him to 21 years and 10 months.
Born in Remera village, Karambi cell, Ndego sector, Kayonza district – but was arrested while living in Umunanira village, Gati cell, Gishari sector, Rwamagana district and convicted for defiling a 16 year-old girl, whom he had also turned into his wife.
Niyonizera admitted to RIB that indeed he had “married” the girl from his birth district Kayonza and relocated with her to Rwamagana. RIB dossier recorded that he had apologized for the crime. In court, Niyonizera said the reason he decided to start living with the girl is that whenever she came to visit him, she would narrate the abuse she was living through at home, and that she didn’t want to go back home. The girl apparently also confided in him that if he forced her to go back home, she would commit suicide.
Court also recorded that Niyonizera did have conversation with the girl about her threat to commit suicide, telling her “Who would you leave me for if you commit suicide?”. Niyonizera also told court that before deciding to live with the girl, he questioned her about the age – to which she confirmed she was 18 years. The court also recorded testimony of the girl victim herself in which she also confirms that she had been living with Niyonizera for two weeks before his arrest, and that she had settled to marry him.
Court sentenced Niyonizera to 25 years in jail.
Habumugisha Jean Baptiste
Age 22, Cyanika village, Kiremera cell, Kigarama cell, Kirehe district, was jailed for defiling 16 year-old girl and actually turning her into his wife. Habumugisha told investigators that they had consensual sex three times before she told him that she was pregnant. At that point, according to his court submission, he opted to live with her as he didn’t want to abandon her.
Here is what is recorded in court: “We had been friends since primary school in 2013. It was only in August 2020 that we had sex at my place. Sometime later, she came to tell me that she was pregnant. I decided there and then not to abandon her and that is how we began living together.”
Court documents show they began living together October 9, 2020 and he was arrested on October 15. Court sentenced him to 25 years.
Age 24, from Gasabo village, Kazizi cell, Nyamugari sector, Kirehe district, was found guilty of defiling 16 year old girl and turning her into his wife, as well as defiling another underage girl whom he also impregnated.
Nsengimana told RIB investigators that after impregnating the first girl and was living with her, he lured another girl, also impregnating her. From the court filings, Nsengimana admits to the cases without any remorse.
Court sentenced Nsengimana to life in prison.
Age 25, from Kamukire village, Akabuga cell, Ruramira sector, Kayonza district, was found guilty of defiling his 16 year-old cousin (daughter of his maternal aunt). He also impregnated the girl.
To RIB investigators and court, Ndihokubwayo pleaded guilty. He explained that they had been “in love” for over a year. He narrated that they had met at the home of the girl’s male relative after a party, who actually locked them in his house so they could “get to know each other”. He pleaded guilty to defilement, but asked Prosecution to allow him sit for the national exam.
Court jailed him for 21 years and 9 months.
Nsabimana Jean Claude has a bizarre case
Last year he was arrested after a young woman claimed he had impregnated her and abandoned her for another woman. The case goes that; in 2015, Nsabimana began living with a 15 year-old girl. But after four years together and with a child, according to Nsabimana, the woman began “misbehaving”. They agreed to separate, with Nsabimana commiting to provide child support. He moved on and even found another woman.
However, Nsabimana, told court that when he took his new wife for civil marriage at the sector office, the former “wife” reported him to the authorities that he had defiled her when she was 15 years old. That is how his case emerged.
In her affidavit to court, the alleged girl victim said throughout their stay together, she always reminded Nsabimana that she was uncomfortable with the relationship as she was underage, but that he promised her as long as she remained silent, they would remain together.
Court sentenced Nsabimana to 10 years in jail for defilement.
From Bicumbi village, Bicumbi cell, Mwulire sector, Rwamagana district, was found guilty in 2018 of defiling 15 year-old girl from same village and impregnating her. In his defense, Ndacyayisenga admitted to court that indeed he had sex with her once, in a bush, but that the baby isn’t his. Ndacyayisenga told court the girl was a delinquent (“akarara”) in the area and she never told him she was pregnant, also adding that the girl had also accused two other young men.
Ndacyayisenga was sentenced to 20 years.
Mukomeza Jean Claude
Aged 21, from Rurenge village, Nyagasambu cell, Fumbwe sector, Rwamagana district, is accused of defiling his 13 year-old sister. He denied the case saying he could never do something as abominable as that. Instead, Mukomeza claims their mother fabricated the allegations as they had been fighting over land. Asked why he was blaming their mother, yet the defiled girl herself confirmed he had abused her, Mukomeza said his sister was given money by their mother to incriminate him, and that one of the prosecution witnesses Nyirabagenzi Vestine is the one who bought the land the family was fighting over.
Mukomeza told court that he had 10 other sisters from same father with stepmothers, yet none of them had ever accused him of sexual abuse. However, prosecution also presented testimony of another of Mukomeza’s sisters, who confirmed that he had previously attempted several times to defile the victim. He denied the accusations.
Court ruled that Mukomeza was guilty and sentenced him to 24 years and three months.
Age 19, from Nyagasambu village, Musumba cell, Nyamirama sector, Kayonza district, was acquitted by court on charge of defiling 3 year-old girl. Prosecution dossier confirmed the baby had indeed been defiled. According to RIB dossier and prosecution submission to court, Manishimwe had admitted to the crime.
However, when he arrived before a judge, Manishimwe denied the charge of defilement, saying he had admitted to RIB and prosecution because he was so frightened as it was his first appearance before state authority to answer to a charge.
Court ordered a medical examination of the child to ascertain whether she had been defiled. The medical examination found no problem with the child.
Court dismissed the case and immediately ordered for his released.
Age 15, from Nyakerera cell, Kigarama sector, Kirehe district, was also acquitted recently on charge of defiling 14 year-old girl. The allegations had been affirmed by the girl victim and other witnesses interviewed by investigators and prosecution. The state also had confession said to be that of Dukuzumuremyi himself.
However, before a judge, he denied the allegations, telling court he had been beaten by local officials who forced him to confess to have defiled the girl. Dukuzumuremyi told the judge the said confession was out of fear for his life.
Court reviewed the evidence and decided he was innocent and ordered for his immediate release.
By Camarade Uwizeye
This story project was done as a collaboration with Radio/TV IZUBA based in Ngoma district and broadcasting in eastern Rwanda