In June 2014, eight Rwandan young women had communicated to each other and agreed they needed to meet at a road construction site. All they wanted was to petition the site manager to help settle difficulties of accessing their foreign lovers.
Foreign construction workers under Angelique International Company had fathered children with these women but were not giving them any child support. The women were from Ngororero and Muhanga districts while their lovers were technicians at a hydropower plant under construction at Gitwa village in Mushishiro sector, Muhanga district.
Angry and seemingly determined, the women arrived at the site with their mixed race babies and confronted the site manager; “we won’t leave this site until we have our issue heard,” they warned.
However, the site manager called security officials to intervene and the ladies were chased away.
Three months later, when the Minister of Infrastructure James Musoni visited the site to witness progress of activities, the same ladies turned up and raised their concern.
“It is a problem our two countries can look into, but it would be a very long process given that the expatriates may not be identified,” said Musoni.
The minister mediated saying; “In the meantime, parents will take care of the education responsibility or ask government for support if they cannot manage.”
Musoni mentioned there are existing mechanisms to help the poor under Vision 2020 Umurenge Program (VUP) where they can receive either direct support, financial support or a pay for public works.
Currently 22 ladies from Rusizi, Ngororero,Bugesera and Muhanga have children born to Indian or Chinese construction workers.
Meanwhile, there are many similar unreported cases especially in Nyamasheke district where the Chinese spent two years during the construction of Nyamasheke-Karongi road.
Falling in love with Chinese
In Rusizi district, a group of Chinese construction workers arrived in 2014 to start extension works for Rwanda’s only cement factory.
Hua a Chinese construction technician one day walked to a supermarket to buy some groceries and got attracted to Justine Ishimwe who was working as a salesperson at the supermarket. They fell in love.
Ishimwe is a resident of Idaga village, Gitambi sector. She was deeply in love with Hua, “I can’t explain how within two weeks, I had already caught his attention. He said he loved me, but I couldn’t believe him until I discovered he had been investigating me, to know what I like, my home and so on.”
The Chinese technician decided to move away from Cimerwa quarters and began living with Ishimwe in a rented house in the neighborhood. The two started a family and Hua was paying all the bills as his Rwandan lover got pregnant.
However, when the Cimerwa construction site manager noticed that Hua was no longer living at the quarters, he was summoned back.
“His boss called him back to stay inside Cimerwa quarters saying in Chinese culture it is forbidden to have a child from another society,” Ishimwe told KT Press.
“Things were becoming hard for me without his presence and support but when I raised the issue with him, he told me he was just waiting for his child.”
In November 2014, Ishimwe gave birth to a baby boy and named him Kevin Niyibizi.
Preoccupied with the future of the child, Ishimwe went to Cimerwa, announced the birth to Hua so that he can provide support.
The man said he would give Rwf 5 million “to buy the child” but mother insisted she couldn’t give the baby until he is 7 years old and asked to instead have the money for child maintenance which, the local leaders also supported.
“I have not seen the man since January this year the date he had pledged to raise it,” said Ishimwe who suspects that her Chinese lover may have been transferred to a sister company in neighboring DRC.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, Ishimwe married Pascal Nkundimana and are raising the child together although their families do not approve of their marriage. “Mind you, when your child grows up you won’t find anything to tell him if he discovers his father abandoned you,” Ishimwe said she is constantly reminded.
Ishimwe like other women in love relationships with foreign construction workers had high expectations including; getting richer or leaving with their lovers to live abroad.
Marie Solange Mukandayisenga and her Indian partner Dan Bahadur have a child. However, when he was about to leave, they registered their child Sunita Pooja at Mushishiro sector.
“Before going home for holiday, he gave me Rwf 200,000 (about $256) and promised to come back for the child,” she said adding, “When we talk on phone, he still promises to return but I have lost hope. Even the company he worked for has completed its business in Rwanda.”
Nyirahabimana Ernestine from Jimbo village in Gatumba sector, Ngororero district has a 4-year old daughter Jasoda. Before the father -a construction worker left the country, he promised her; “I will deposit a lot of money on your account for our daughter and I will come back to take you to India as she reaches the school age.”
For Justine Ishimwe, when she first met her Chinese lover Hua, “the first impression was that my poverty was over; I expected him to give me money to start my own shop because our impression here is that every Chinese is rich.”
Hua wanted Ishimwe to follow him in China and Ishimwe had no problem with that.
The children are also Rwandans
According to the Rwandan law, any child born to a Rwandan parent is automatically a Rwandan.
Pie Habimana a lawyer told KT Press, “If the women are legally married their husbands are presumed fathers of the children.”
Otherwise, he said, the ladies will have to embark to the search of paternity of their children.
Johnston Busingye, Minister of Justice who also learnt about the issue said, “The country cannot offer the ladies any help unless they have facts and are ready to process a visa, pay transport and go find the fathers of their children themselves.”
He said this is cumbersome exercise in a big country like China or India, much as the ladies do not know the whereabouts of their children’s fathers.
However, he said, there is no reason for the ladies to feel humbled “because it is a blessing for Rwanda to have citizens from diverse origins.”