At least seven people died at the 8th Avenue during the Independence Day celebrations on July1st . The police report “clashes between police officers and attackers”. Compound No. 42 in Mutakura illustrates the violence of the operation.-By Abbas Mbazumutima translated by J.Berchmans Siboniyo
Many bullet holes in the walls. Roofs collapsed. Houses burnt. This was the look of the area last Thursday, July 2nd. People living the quarter are visibly shocked by the events of the previous day. They are silent. All they can do is contemplate the ashy ruins, while police officers are passing nearby.
It is 9AM. The bodies of Leon Hakizimana and his sons are evacuated from the compound, 24 hours after their execution. Flies are swirling around three pools of blood in the courtyard. Another unrecognizable body is laying face down, waiting to be brought to the morgue.
People close to the victims look as if they have gone mad and wander around the ruins of the houses. “Houses that were not burned look like a typhoon came through”, testify people at the place. Beds are overturned, drawers of the dressers thrown on the ground, furniture desecrated.
Four people died in compound No 42. The police had surrounded the area since 6 AM, according to young man from the neighborhood. He says he was having breakfast with his older brother and their cook when police agents were running after a fugitive in the area. “I managed to escape them but our cook was shot”, the man says. The young man and his brother are freed after a small meeting with the police officers. The meeting consisted of a discussion on whether to shoot them dead or spare them. “Tubamene canke tubareke?” he heard them say, which literally means “do we kill them or not?”
During that time, compound No.42 was invaded by a violent band of the police, as one eyewitness, hidden in the roof of the house in front of the attacked compound at the time of the attack, reports.
Leon and his sons were taken out from the house after police forced the door. They were told to kneel down in the courtyard. Accused of hiding the elements who had attacked the police, their sentence didn’t delay. Each one received a bullet in the head.
Gerard Banderega will undergo the same sentence. He was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, as one of his relatives relates. He explains Gerard was walking on avenue no.12, after visiting his house under construction at Kinyankonge, a new quarter near Mutakura. Banderega fled inside the boutique of the compound when he heard gunshots. He was taken from the boutique and executed on the spot.
Distress and fear
Greta, a friend of one of Leon’s sons killed with the father visits the place, to make sure that what she heard is true. Held by her two friends, Greta is overtaken by grief. She can’t believe her companion has died. She and Franck used to dance salsa together.
An old woman living in the corner of the compound leaves the area, carrying luggage on her head. Deep-seated fear was readable in her face. “We witnessed theses same events in the past. I won’t wait around to be slaughtered here”, she warns her neighbors.
A relative of Gerard says he has left the entire current situation in God’s hands for “such killings are but perpetrated by Lucifer”, she believes.
Pierre Nkurikiye: “There have been damages on both sides”
The spokesperson of the police defends tooth and nail the report of his institution concerning the events of July 1, at Mutakura.
However he admits there have been innocent victims. 6 people have died in the police ‘ house search operation’. “The people may have been victims of stray bullets while the police agents were pursuing a group of people that had attacked the police, killing one officer and wounding four of our officers”, Pierre Nkurikiye states.
The question is whether the people killed by a shot in the head, were among ‘the group of evil doers who had attacked the police’. The police spokesman sticks to the report of five people died, 7 wounded and four others arrested on the side of the attackers. Weapons were also seized by the police: one heavy machine gun, one rocket launcher, one RPG7, two kalachnikovs, one pistol and ammunitions. “We don’t know whom the group is composed of yet. All we know is that the members of the group attacked the police officers. Some of them have died and their weapons were seized”, says the police spokesman.
Jerome Sindayigaya, the Responsible of Mutakura quarter denies having seen any weapons seized by the police. He doesn’t recognize any testimony from the quarter inhabitants that would have seen the weapons. Instead, he questions why the house search operation would target only one compound, whereas gun shots were heard from 8AM to 5PM. He goes on saying that his house was also targeted by the operation, but he left very late in the evening when he learned about the sad event at the 8th avenue.
Who are the victims?
56 years old, fairly tall, a tutsi from Kamenge commune. He was a money changer in the Bujumbura city center. His coworkers know him as an upright person, always smiling. “He liked drinking, that is his political party”, describes one of his coworkers. Jerome Sindayigaya, the Responsible of the Mutakura quarter says of Leon Hatungimana was a mild tempered and peaceful man.
45 years old, Banderega was a representative of the custom agency. He was spending much of his time at the Bujumbura Global Port. He was staying at the 12th avenue. According to one of his relatives, he had no time for politics. The late Banderega had not participated in the demonstrations in Bujumbura city. He passed away while his spouse (a teacher) was away for an internship in China.
Fleury and Franck
Twins, both bearing their father’s family name Hakizimana. The first was a student at one of the universities in Bujumbura. The second was studying at a lycée.