Cibitoke : young Burundians accused of being “rebels” of the opposition

Five young Burundians have been arrested and accused of participating in a rebel movement formed by Burundian opposition parties, operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They are detained in Buganda Communal prison.-Jackson Bahati; translated by Lorraine Josiane Manishatse

 Five young Burundians arrested © Iwacu

Five young Burundians arrested © Iwacu

According to the police officer who is investigating the case, the young men were arrested on 24 September, at the Rusizi River. However, other sources indicate that only one among those five detainees was arrested at Rusizi River, while the others were arrested very far from the river, at Cunyu locality, Gasenyi area in Buganda Commune.
It is important to mention that on Friday 26th September, only RTNB and Rema TV have been authorized to interview the detainees. This decision was taken by Jean-Marie Nibigira the public prosecutor at Cibitoke. “Journalists may not interview them”, he ordered. But, apparently, that order doesn’t apply to our colleagues from RTNB and Rema.

The young men are accused of participating in a rebel movement operating in the DRC. The public prosecutor indicates that they are connected to the Burundian opposition, in specific ADC Ikibiri, a coalition movement of opposition parties, led by Leonce Ngendakumana.
According to human rights activists from Cibitoke, there is a lurking issue there, since only some media have been authorized to interview the detainees. “It seems there is a plan to discredit the image of ADC Ikibiri”, political observers suspect.

The prosecutor Jean Marie Nibigira claims that the detainees were arrested through close cooperation between the Burundian and Congolese army. Unimpeachable sources indicate that all five young detained are Burundian citizens from Makamba, Bujumbura-Rural, Ngozi and Kirundo provinces.


 A commission of inquiry, or a manipulative tool

The Ombudsman’s office will soon establish a commission that will investigate the five young Burundians who admitted to escaping from a Burundian rebel movement operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Some people mistrust the initiative.-By Edouard Madirisha, translated by Lorraine Josiane Manishatse

Mohamed Rukara, the Burundian Ombudsman © Iwacu

Mohamed Rukara, the Burundian Ombudsman © Iwacu

The public prosecutor in Cibitoke, Jean Marie Nibigira, indicated that the five young boys have admitted to the officer of the judicial police (OPJ ) that they are part of a rebel movement in the DRC, lead by Alexi Sinduhije, the president of the political party Movement of Solidarity and Development (MSD).
Jacqueline Rukuki, the legal advisor in the ombudsman’s office, explains that when the commission is established, the Ombudsman will carry out a raid in the DRC to get more information about the situation and verify all the information gathered so far.

She indicates that the justice organs and the ombudsman office are different institutions, but both independent. She clarifies that both can deal with this issue. The Ombudsman’s initiative is surprising. Because some months ago, media and civil society organizations already mentioned the probable presence of young Burundians –some say Imbonerakure- partaking paramilitary training in the DRC. They called for investigations into the matter, but in vain. The government of Burundi, supported by Kinshasa, denied the allegations and refuses to investigation. Their position is supported by CNDD-FDD, the presidential party.

 Why today?

So why does the Ombudsman want to investigate today, while the government and CNDD-FDD have always refused it? “Concerning the presence of Imbonerakure in the DRC, the government, CNDD-FDD and the Ombudsman are three institutions cut from the same wood. They have refused to do any investigation, so why does the ombudsman’s office suddenly change its position?” Léonce Ngendakumana, the chairman of ADC Ikibiri, asks.
While the Ombudsman’s institution may be independent, its boss is the number 2 in the Council of Elders commanding the ruling CNDD-FDD party.

Finally, regardless of the good initiative to react after the arrest of five young Burundians, it is not a simple coincidence that these men supposedly belong to an opposition rebellion. The investigation apparently does not concern the allegation that hundreds of young Burundians, Imbonerakure, are following paramilitary training in the DRC. The opposition would not be wrong in fearing that all the allegations will point in their direction.

The Ombudsman takes the matter into his own hand
On Monday afternoon, 29th September, the Ombudsman visited the police jail of Cibitoke. He talked with the five young Burundians, one by one. The meeting lasted one hour. According to the lawyer Jacqueline Rukuki, the legal advisor in the Ombudsman’s office, the objective of that visit was to ensure that the young detainees do indeed belong to a rebel movement formed by a coalition of political parties.The dossier is so sensitive, that the lawyer believes that the Ombudsman should work in collaboration with judicial organs. She indicates that the Ombudsman will conduct a complete investigation. The Burundian Ombudsman provides in implementing a commission that will allow him to find out if the detainees are truly from a rebel movement or if it is a case of misrepresentation of information.