President Paul Kagame wants women that survived rape during the 1994 genocide to speak out to overcome the effects of what they went through.
“I feel, I share and I live their pain,” President Kagame said Wednesday evening after viewing The Uncondemned documentary.
The documentary, screened at Serena Hotel in Kigali, showcases how rape is used as a war weapon which often passes without punishment.
The President watched the documentary accompanied by the First Lady and the daughter.
Over a million Tutsi women were gang raped, sexually mutilated and murdered during 100 days of the 1994 genocide.
As a result, it is estimated that about 10,000 babies were also born.
President Kagame made remarks after the screening of the documentary.
He said the documentary “Is a spark that will lead to much brighter light in telling the story of injustice of what transpired in Rwanda in 1994.”
The Uncondemned features the first trial that prosecuted rape as a war crime and act of genocide.
Rape was declared a war crime in 1919 after the 2nd world war but was never tried in court until 1997 in a case of Jean Paul Akayesu a former Mayor of Rwanda’s Commune Taba, now Kamonyi District, in Southern Rwanda.
Akayesu was handed a life sentence by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
According to Michele Mitchell, the co-director of the documentary, using nuclear weapons, looting during the war have been considered bigger war crimes while rape is never judged.
“At times when there are many bodies, it’s hard to look at the obvious injustices like rape,” said Mitchell.
Pierre Prosper a trial attorney who prosecuted Akayesu at ICTR said, “its important to make it known that rape is a crime as big as murder.”
He said that it was quite a challenge for three Rwandan women to testify against Akayesu, after the former Mayor mobilized and witnessed them being raped being the 1994 genocide.
“I felt like this was shameful to discuss. I was gang raped, mutilated and stripped naked as the Interahamwe left me to die out of sadness. I remember clearly Akayesu telling the killers never to ask him how a Tutsi woman tasted, as they pounced on us,” says Victoire Mukambanda, a 68 year old witness.
Kagame who could not hold back his emotions said, “These women who testified in the trial of Akayesu brought out voices of those who could not speak for themselves.”