31 August 2012

Rwanda: Mystery Surrounds Death of Prostitutes

Photo: A. Mirza/Irin
A sex worker (file photo).

A lot of questions remain unanswered after a number of prostitutes have been found dead in various parts of Kigali City.

A reliable source has put the number of those killed at 18, though the number could not be independently verified.

The latest incident was reported last Tuesday afternoon, when three young women were found dead in Gatsata suburb of Kigali.

According to the neighbours, two of the young women were known prostitutes, while the third is suspected to have been killed after she witnessed the fate of the sex workers.

Angelique Mukarwaka, a local official attached to Gatsata Sector, identified the deceased as; Donatha Yankurije, 22, Veredianah Mukashingiro alias Miyatatu 31, and Alphonsine Ahishakiye, a housewife and a mother of two.

The killings are said to have taken place in the afternoon.

"This is a bigger problem than meets the eye. What has happened here is part of a larger problem," Mukarwaka told The New Times during an interview at her office on Wednesday.

When The New Times visited the crime scene on Tuesday, a group of self-confessed sex workers and other residents of Gatsata were holding a vigil for the victims.

Alice Ishimwe, who says she gave up prostitution five years ago, was among those mourning the women.

According to Ishimwe, on the fateful day, she saw the two women return home at around 11 am with two men.

"There was no sense of animosity on the faces of all four. They looked jolly," she said as she stroked her 8-month old baby.

She added that Ahishakiye, who seemed to have been doing laundry, was dragged to the house and killed after the suspects feared she could have witnessed their gruesome act.

There was no alarm or signs of a scuffle - the three were found dead, undressed and tied with pieces of cloth, area residents narrated.

The mourners also told The New Times of two other women, only identified as Delphine and Uwineza who had been killed this month.

In the Migina area, another popular spot for prostitutes, Clementine Uwimbazi, a sex worker, was seen coming home in the wee hours on Tuesday, with a man. She was found dead by neighbours the following day after her 8 year-old daughter expressed her confusion about the mother's state.

"She did not have injuries to suggest a scuffle before her death," a neighbour, preferring not to be named, told The New Times.

It is suspected that the murders are connected.

In most incidents, eyewitnesses talk of a slender light-skinned man who appears to be in his early 30s.

A man fitting that description, they say, has been sighted in areas known for sex trade in Kigali.

Police spokesperson, Theos Badege, described the trend of the killings as strange and very rare, adding that police has constituted a team of investigators focused on this kind of killings with a view of stopping them and bringing those responsible to justice.

"The case [Gatsata murder] matched with others. It has become a great security concern," Badege said.

No suspects have been arrested.

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