A mother held captive in Rwanda, charged with crimes against the government, was freed after her story touched the hearts of thousands.
Now, just four months after youth worker Violette Uwamahoro was reunited with her family, she has given birth to a healthy baby boy.
Gidion’s birth this week, so hard fought for, marks a new chapter in the family’s story, they say, and he will grow up to know about the battle by so many people to save him.
“This boy was not going to be here,” said father Faustin Rukundo. “His fate was decided. The best outcome would have been for him to be born in prison. We didn’t dare hope for this. He has been given the chance of life. He is to grow up knowing that.”
Mrs Owumahoro, 39, disappeared in February after attending her father’s funeral, sparking concerns she was being tortured over her husband’s political views.
Mr Rukundo, a youth organiser with the opposition Rwandan National Congress group, was here in Leeds with the couple’s two sons – David, 11, and Sam, eight – and had tried frantically to muster support while protecting the boys from what was happening.
The community rallied. The couple’s neighbours offered help for lawyers, MP Hilary Benn raised the case with Boris Johnson. And it began to make international headlines.
In early April, Mrs Uwamahoro was suddenly freed. A judge ruled there was no case against her and she was granted unconditional bail. Within days, she was home.
Crediting this newspaper for raising a “noise” which travelled further than could have been hoped, Mr Rukundo said it meant more to the family than they could express.
Thanking all those who supported them, in particular MP Hilary Benn, he said: “We owe such massive thanks. It helped me not to give up, because that support was there. As a family it means more than we can say.”
The past few months have been difficult, Mr Rukundo said. But, after Gidion was born on Monday at Leeds General Infirmary, weighing a healthy 3.2 kilos, the family feel they have been granted a new start.
Mrs Uwamahoro, cradling her young son in her arms, says she is just grateful he is safe.
“I was really scared to have a baby there,” said Mrs Uwamahoro. “There were doctors and nurses, but they were soldiers. I thought I would lose my life and the baby as well. I’m happy now, to have my baby. To be surrounded by my family, friends.”
And, says Mr Rukundo, it has changed their family forever.
“It has marked us,” he said. “We will make sure Gidion grows up knowing what’s happened. That is our task and our responsibility. We’ve had a difficult year. Now everything has changed again. It’s a new chapter in our life. We have hope that it will be good.”
MOTHER HELD IN RWANDA
Mrs Uwamahoro disappeared from a bus station in February.
She had been taken by two men and, with her head covered, forced into a car. The youth worker, who is non-political, had no idea why they wanted her – other than that they claimed she was trying to raise an army.
For five days she was held in a safe house, under arrest. She was handcuffed, chained, with no information. In April, after her case gained worldwide attention, she was suddenly freed after a judge found there was no evidence.
The Rwandan High Commission was unavailable for comment.