The Rwanda police says it will launch an investigation into multiple rape allegations that recently trended on social media in a bid to bring the perpetrators to book.
In a similar situation to the sexual assault allegations that rocked public figures in the US and United Kingdom last year, a social media storm started when several women — using an anonymous social media account — made rape allegations against men they said had gone unpunished.
Some of the allegations date back to 2012.
On Wednesday last week, the police confirmed to Rwanda Today that two of the women have filed formal complaints, which will form the basis for investigations.
“Such cases are handled confidentially and we cannot provide any details right now. But we take such allegations seriously and we will investigate them fully to ascertain the truth,” said police spokesperson Theos Badege.
The allegations divided social media users with some applauding the women for their bravery in coming out to name and shame the alleged rapists, while others warned that it could encourage the spread of malicious allegations and blackmail especially given that one of the alleged offenders was a prominent businessman.
Some of the women, including others that did share their ordeal on social media spoke to Rwanda Today.
One of them, Iliza Kamandali, who lives abroad, said she was drugged and raped by a man she met in September 2014.
“I woke up the next morning sick and sore, like I had been hit by a car. I could feel that something wasn’t right but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was exactly. The last memory I had was throwing up in his car,” she said.
When she finally recalled that she had been raped, she confronted her attacker but his response was that no one would believe her story.
Another victim who asked not to be named, told Rwanda Today that she was raped at 15 years and got pregnant.
She gave birth and cares for her child, but still suffers from the ordeal.
The police encouraged victims of sexual violence to call 3512 and advised those that feel that their cases were mishandled to report directly to CID.
Human-rights activists said most women tend not to report rape or defilement because of shame or being urged to remain silent by their families.
“Just because a woman didn’t report an assault doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. There are those who are intimidated into not reporting and so many cases are swept under the rug,” said executive director of Never Again Rwanda, Joseph Nkurunziza.
“Society shouldn’t be quick to judge and the police should carry out thorough investigations,” he added.
Rape and defilement are among the top ten crimes reported to police in the country out of 16,000 crimes reported on average every year.
According to the Judiciary Activity Report for 2015-2016, top cases that make it to court are rape and sexual violence; drug-related crimes; economic crimes and domestic violence.