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Rwanda’s children of rape

Sixteen years later, another new generation is bearing the scars of the Rwandan genocide.  Like 20,000 other Rwandan teenagers, Diane Kayirangwa was born in the midst of the chaos that killed so many in her country in 1994.  Her father was a member of the Interahamwe − the ethnic Hutu militia ordered by the extremist government to wipe out the Tutsi minority.  Her mother, Anastasie, was one of the countless women raped by the Hutu militia. She was raped three times by three different people and barely escaped alive.

Anastasie told the BBC in a special report how 16 years on, she told her daughter about how she came to be born and her own struggles to be accepted by her community after what happened to her. After her trauma, Anastasie was was threatened by neighbours who had killed the rest of her family and had to flee her village out of fear. Like many of Rwanda’s thousands of other rape victims, she has not been able to marry and buys and sells goods in her shanty town outside the capital, Kigali, to provide for her daughter.  But she said telling Diane about how she was born, was the most upsetting part of her battle. "Diane had already asked me. I told her when she was about 12 years old. She was grown up. I told her when we were alone," she says.  "It pained her. She cried, she stood up and she moved here and there because of anger."  "Then she asked me if she was Hutu," Anastasie said. "I told her that she was not Hutu, she was, Tutsi because she was being cared for by me, because I was persecuted because of my tribe. But today we are all Rwandans because the issue of tribes is over."

Other mothers who have been victims of rape have struggled to bond with her child. Another mother told BBC researchers how she gave birth in a refugee camp and her first thought had been to get rid of her son in a latrine. "I didn't see him as my child. I didn't love him," she said. "In him, I saw the image of spears. I saw machetes. I saw very bad things.” She has still not been able to bring herself to tell her son the story of how he was born.

Between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days. Thousands of women were also raped.

Hayley attribution