Bubanza, 4:30 pm

With some colleagues, the journalist Clarisse Shaka stayed all day in Bubanza for their colleagues Christine, Agnès, Térence, Egide and Adolphe their driver. The story of a day that ends in tears.

Saturday, October 26, is exactly the 5th day of detention of our four colleagues and their driver. We arrive at the Bubanza communal police station around 1 p.m. We speak little. Everyone is lost in thought. We see three small cells where we can read “Women”, “Men”, and “Minors”. We have difficulty believing that the journalists are languishing inside.

According to some police officers on the spot, we must have the authorization of the prosecutor to see our colleagues. Finally, the prosecutor turns up. He is accompanied by Iwacu newspaper’s lawyer. He orders our colleagues to leave with all their luggage. Seeing them again after five days fills our hearts with joy. Some of us have tears in their eyes. We believe, hope that they will come back with us. Each one of us thinks s/he could have been in their place…

Last Tuesday, they had gone to Bubanza to report on what was happening in there as there were reports of armed attacks. It was their job as journalists. The prosecutor announces that they will be heard at the public prosecutor’s office located opposite. It is time to exchange some warm greetings with our friends and they are quickly taken to the Bubanza courthouse, escorted by several policemen. Crossing our fingers… At 1:30 p.m., looking down, tired and desperate in the prosecutor’s office, the journalists wait to be received by Judge Jean Marie Vianney Ntamikevyo.

They sit on a long bench, without speaking to each other. Finally, they are received, one by one, in the presence of their lawyer. Everyone stays there for 30 minutes. It is around 3:30 p.m. that the last defendant, the driver, will be heard. At 4:30, it’s time for the verdict. Our hearts beat quickly and loudly. The Bubanza prosecutor stands at the entry of the prosecutor’s office to announce the decision. He holds in his hands five small papers on which the accusation of each of the journalists appears: “Complicity in undermining the internal security of the State.”

They will be transferred to Bubanza prison “while investigations continue,” says the prosecutor.

All is said. Some of us start crying.