Confusion about Assassination of Environment Minister

Who and why? Grey areas remain over the assassination of Emmanuel Niyonkuru, Minister of Environment, on New Year’s Eve. Iwacu goes back to his last hours and provides an update on the investigation.

Written by Fabrice Manirakiza, Agnès Ndirubusa and Hervé Mugisha. Translated by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana

Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru was assassinated on the Eve of the New Year's day

Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru was assassinated on the Eve of the New Year’s day

While 2017 had just begun, a tweet fell: “#Burundi crime. Minister of Water and Environment dead shot with a pistol by a criminal on his way home to Rohero, at 0:45”. The tweet came from the spokesman of the Burundian police.
According to Pierre Nkurikiye, Emmanuel Niyonkuru, Minister of Water, Environment, Spatial Planning and Urban Development, was in his vehicle that he was driving himself. “In this car, there was also a woman.” Having arrived at his residence near Mutanga campus  in Rohero I area, he was opened the gate and the vehicle entered. “Someone shot three bullets at the minister with a pistol and he died on the spot.”

Extensive arrests

In the aftermath of the assassination, the police made some arrests. The woman who was with the minister and two guards of the minister’s residence were immediately arrested. Benoît Ndorimana, the boss of Bar-Restaurant “Chez André”, a place that the minister had just left prior to his assassination, was also arrested on Sunday, 1st January 2017.

Nadège Nkunzimana and Amissi Juvénal, two waiters of the same restaurant, were also apprehended. Since then, they have all been incarcerated in the dungeons of the National Intelligence Service (SNR) 

Verena Stamm: "Concluding that we have something to do with the assassination of the minister because he took the last drink in our bar is very far-fetched."

Verena Stamm: “Concluding that we have something to do with the assassination of the minister because he took the last drink in our bar is very far-fetched.”

Verena Stamm, wife of Bénoit Ndorimana, said she was surprised by the arrest of her husband and his employees. She recounts what happened that night: “The minister came to the restaurant as usual because he is our customer.”

At 9 pm, my husband and I went out to visit our friends. “We came back at 11 o’clock and the minister was still at the counter chatting with his friends.” Verena Stamm says they left again at midnight to come back one o’clock in the morning. “We went straight to sleep and the next day we heard the sad news that the minister was murdered.”

“It’s farfetched”

At 11 am on Sunday, says Verena Stamm, we saw a pick-up filled with police armed to teeth surrounding our house. “We couldn’t understand why. We asked what was going on. The police told us they were going to take my husband for an investigation.

They said they had an arrest warrant but I did not see it”. She said her husband was taken to SNR near the Cathedral.
The wife, then, tried to see her husband in vain. In the evening, she managed to send him food. “I heard that he is badly lodged, that he sleeps on the floor in a common room. My husband has health problems and is old.

It’s hard for him to endure these conditions. “
Verena Stamm says Intelligence agents came and pulled in two waiters: Amissi Juvénal and Nadège Nkunzimana, the day after her husband’s arrest.”They said they were people who could give information.” On Tuesday, Verena Stamm managed to negotiate for her husband to have a mattress and she talked to him. “I saw the waiter who was not really good”, she said.

A political arrest?

“Concluding that we have something to do with the assassination of the minister because he took the last drink in our bar is very far-fetched. What do we have to do with this? “
According to her, the grudge against her husband because he is a political opponent dates back from a long time.”But he is not an opponent like others. He belongs to a small political party and that’s all.”

Verena Stamm asks that her husband be released and investigations continue. “No one is going to flee the country”, she said.
Caption: Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru was assassinated on the Eve of the New Year’s day.
Verena Stamm: “Concluding that we have something to do with the assassination of the minister because he took the last drink in our bar is very far-fetched.”

Minister’s last hours

The home of Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru, very close to Mutanga campus, where he was killed.

Pierre Nkurikiye: "The investigation is conducted professionally" How far is the investigation into the assassination?

The home of Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru, very close to Mutanga campus, where he was killed.

Pierre Nkurikiye: “The investigation is conducted professionally”
How far is the investigation into the assassination?

Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru was leaving the Restaurant “Chez André” prior to his assassination. Iwacu returns to his last hours.
At about 3 pm on Saturday, 31 December 2016, Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru went to Mutanga north district of Gihosha  zone in Ntahangwa commune in a bar commonly known as “Kuma carreaux”. “He came into the bar alone and sat down at a table occupied by his friends,” said a waiter.

However, the latter indicates that the Minister had come with another man in the car. “The man stayed in the vehicle that was parked outside the bar. He had an Amstel and a skewer. He stayed all the time in the car. “According to the waiters, it was his friends who offered him to drink.

“He also bought a round. He paid and he left at around 5 pm leaving his friends here. “According to the waiters, he often came but not always.
”It happened at around 8 o’clock. As usual, he was driving his car himself and was alone “, says a waiter at Bar-Restaurant” Chez André “. According to him, Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru was a loyal customer.

“Sometimes he could come with other ministers, senior officials or businessmen.” On his arrival he sat at the counter, as usual.
According to other waiters, he was joined by friends with whom he often shared a drink. There were also other guests. They started talking. “The atmosphere was festive. The minister was chatting happily with his friends, “the waiters said.

It was Nadège Nkunzimana and Amissi Juvénal (waiters arrested during the investigation) who took turns to serve the minister and his friends.
According to the waiters, there was a lady sitting at the counter but away from the minister’s group.

“The minister got up from time to time to talk to her. Afterwards, he returned to his group. “
These waiters said Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru returned just after midnight. As they returned, Emmanuel Niyonkuru had a habit. “He often left without saying goodbye to the people with whom he shared a drink. After paying, he pretended to head for the restroom and went off unobtrusively”.

It is even what he did in the night of New Year’s Eve. “Even his friends were surprised not to see him again.” According to these waiters, the lady had left long before.


Pierre Nkurikiye: “The investigation is conducted professionally”

Pierre Nkurikiye

Pierre Nkurikiye

How far is the investigation into the assassination?

The police have already apprehended six people, the two guards who were at the minister’s home, the woman who was with him, the boss of the bar-restaurant “Chez André”, and two employees of the same house. The police are exploring other avenues to bring the whole truth to light.

What are the first elements of the investigation?

We have already apprehended the woman who must know who shot the minister. If the person who fired was inside the minister’s residence, the sentry must know the assassin.

Don’t the police only hound the Restaurant-Bar “Chez André”?

Not all apprehended persons are related to this restaurant. There are two guards from the home of the Minister of the Environment. The investigation is being conducted professionally.

Mr. Benoît Ndorimana was not there when the minister returned.  Why then his arrest?

Let the investigators do their job. One must not necessarily be with the victim during the crime. In matters of criminality, there are those who perpetrate the act and intellectual accomplices or sponsors of the crime. The minister was leaving this bar. I think that is one of the tracks. This is the normal course of the investigation.

The minister was with other people that day, did you interrogate them?

The woman who was apprehended and the two guards revealed things that I will not quote today for the sake of secrecy. If there are arrests, it is on the basis of the statements of those people. As you do not know what the woman said, do not be surprised if you see that there are people who are arrested.

Some wondered why the minister did not have guards for his protection, while according to the 1st vice-president, at the last Council of Ministers, the minister in charge of security advised them to be vigilant.

No comment

Was the shooter with the minister?

The shooter put the gun on the minister’s right temple and fired three bullets that went through the head and broke one of the vehicle’s windows. There is no other impact. This shows that the person who fired was inside the vehicle. If he had been outside, the bullet would have broken the window and reached the minister to get out of the other side.

Inside the car: next to or behind the minister?

In front, there was the minister and the lady. The shooter may be that lady or someone who could be sitting in the back. Given the direction of the bullet and the impact on the window, there is no other possibility.
Why do you think the woman didn’t flee if it is she who was the murderer?
These are all elements that the investigators will look into as they arrested the woman.

Has she already answered these questions?

She has already responded but the investigation is ongoing and we are not allowed to reveal to the media the content of the statements of the interviewees. The statements will be recorded in minutes that will be sent to the public prosecutor’s office.
If it is not the woman, can we say there is a murderer on the run?
That’s why there’s the investigation to determine the real murderers.

Have you already found out the motives for the crime at this stage of the investigation?
Only the investigation will determine the motives. Generally, the police know the motives of a crime at the end of the investigation.


Pierre Nkurunziza: “This crime will not go unpunished”

On his twitter account, the President of the Republic, Pierre Nkurunziza, quickly reacted: “Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru was murdered last night. Condolences to the family and all Burundians. This crime will not go unpunished”

The Government of Burundi: “This despicable act is part of a series of targeted assassinations”

The Government described the assassination of the minister as “a despicable act that is part of a series of other targeted assassinations of high-ranking state officials.”

It expresses “its indignation and condemns these terrorists” whether they are from inside or outside the country “as well as those who provide them with shelter and moral or financial support.” The Government calls for urgent investigations to identify the perpetrators and sponsors of the crime.

Cndd-Fdd: “The perpetrators of the crime have nothing to offer to Burundians but cruelty and blood”

The ruling party “strongly condemns this horrible assassination which shows that its perpetrators have nothing to offer to the Burundians but cruelty and blood.” It asks for investigations by the competent authorities to bring the criminals to justice. Cndd-Fdd pays tribute to the missing minister “for his achievements in the search for peace and development.”

Cnared: “This assassination is part of the chaos generated by the 3rd term”

For Cnared, whatever the motive, “this assassination is a continuation of the Burundian chaos engendered by the 3rd presidential term of Pierre Nkurunziza.” According to this platform of opponents in exile, the president continues to fuel the Burundian conflict which risks degenerating into a civil war.

Cnared calls for the end of violence and inclusive dialogue to find a lasting solution to the Burundian crisis.

The African Union: “Seek peaceful means to stop this spiral of violence”

The president of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, condemns this assassination, as well as other targeted assassinations and acts of violence in the country. She calls for an independent and credible investigation into such crimes.

“I urge the Burundian authorities to seek peaceful ways and means to stop this spiral of violence.” The African Union remains convinced that only inclusive dialogue and a consensus based on the respect for the Arusha Agreement and the Constitution will enable Burundi to regain peace, security and stability.

Didier Reynders condemns the assassination of Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru

On his twitter account, the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes peace and reconciliation for Burundi.


Christian Manirakiza

Christian Manirakiza

“We mourn for a right and rigorous man”

After the assassination of Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru, the world of sport, basketball in particular, reacts.
Christian Manirakiza, a long time friend and colleague as a referee, mourns a man of consensus, right and rigorous in decision-making both on the playing field and in everyday life.
”He could never be influenced for any reason, no matter what the stake of the match for which he would be an officer. He was always upright. “His achievements honored and led him to numerous acknowledgments wherever he passed. He died as a Commissioner of FIBA Africa (International Basketball Federation) and holder of an honorary international referee diploma.

Who was Emmanuel Niyonkuru?

Since 24 August, 2015, he was Minister of Water, Environment, Town, Country and Urban Planning. According to the presidency of the Republic, Emmanuel Niyonkuru was elected Senator in Muramvya constituency for the 2015-2020 term.
President in office of the Conference of Ministers of Nelcom (countries of the equatorial lakes of the Nile Basin), he was also Chairman in office of the Conference of Ministers of Comifac (Commission of Central African Forests, ECCAS countries).
Emmanuel Niyonkuru was born on 20 July, 1962 in Gashingwa, Rutegama commune of Muramvya province. He attended the University of Burundi from 1987 to 1991, in the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Political Economy option.
From 2 January 1992 to 24 August 2015, the assassinated minister was an official at the Bank of the Republic of Burundi (BRB).

He has held the post of deputy director, head of banking supervision and financial stability and head of human resources.
He spoke easily Kirundi, French, English and a bit of Kiswahili. Reading, basketball and walking were his hobbies.
Of Tutsi ethnicity, this member of Cndd-Fdd party died leaving behind a woman and three children among whom a girl who is currently living in Sweden.

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