Hanged and his tongue severed. Who killed Corporal Macumi?

After his death on 29 December, Tharcisse Macumi, a corporal of the 22nd Battalion located in Gitega commune of Gitega province, was found two days later, hanged and his tongue cut in a huge bush on Mwumba hill of the same commune. Who killed him and for what reasons? Iwacu conducted an investigation.

Corporal Tharcisse Macumi was buried on Monday without military honors.

Information about a body of a man found hanged on a tree in Mwumba locality was circulating on Tuesday, December 31. Residents who were looking for firewood in the vast forest known as “Kwa Birihanyuma” discovered this body around 1 p.m. People who were around came running to be sure of what they had been hearing. Iwacu decides to conduct an investigation.

Meeting with witnesses

The small road that zigzags through Mwumba from Nyabututsi-rural neignborhood is not very busy this Tuesday, January 7. Two young mango sellers are holding a friendly conversation near the road, not far from the Basic School of Mwumba. At the distance, a young goat keeper wades into a puddle in the middle of the road. He knows a little bit about the story of the man discovered hanged: “I heard that the man was hanged with a shoe lace on a branch of a tree. His shoes were on the floor. I don’t know if he was the one who removed them.”

To reach the place called “Kwa Birihanyuma”, the young man tells us: “This path will not lead you there. Turn back and take the one that passes by the ECOFO Mwumba football pitch.” We turn around.

The new way is a grassy, visibly not often used. It’s difficult. We wonder if we are not lost. According to some information not yet verified, the body was removed from the tree with a military vehicle. Where did it pass by? The question will remain unanswered.
At one point, our car can no longer move forward. Should we turn back? We are confused. An old man suddenly appears from a cornfield.

“Hello, where is ” Kwa Birihanyuma?” We ask him. “Hello, keep going straight. It’s not far from here,” he replies. About reports of a man found hanged in recent days, the old man says, “No, people are lying.”

The car can no longer move forward. We continue walking between banana trees and giant trees, determined but a little worried. On the horizon, there are uninhabited mountains as far as the eye can see. We meet two more people before entering the huge bush called “Kwa Birihanyuma”.

Suicide or homicide?

Surprisingly, the bush is not made of giant trees, but medium-sized eucalyptus trees, separated by herbaceous plants. We wonder what tree the man could have been hanged on. It seems incredible to us how a man could be hanged on such trees. In the bush, we walk. We take photos. After 45 minutes, we meet the first man. He keeps cows. “I’ve heard that a man was allegedly found not hanged, but tied to a tree with a rope at the level of the neck.” But we don’t want people who “heard.” We want to go further. Suicide or Homicide? We walk the bush a few more miles. Suddenly, we are challenged. We jump. A man scrutinizes us. We hadn’t seen him. “Hello,” he says. We do some self introduction. He kindly tells us about everything he heard about this corpse.

Finally, from the valley, echoes of men’s voices reach us. We learn that they are there all the time, making bricks. “They may have been able to go to the place where the hanged man was. They can tell you more,” concludes our interlocutor. We go down there with difficulties. The grass and the ground are slippery. It had rained the day before…

“He was a man in black complexion, of medium height. He was hanged with a lace from his shoes which were on the floor. It was really scary. ” This is the description of JD, one of the brick makers from Mwumba valley. He says he saw the hanged man with his own eyes. “Those who killed him tied him to a tree trunk.”

For some people who speak of suicide, this witness dispels all confusion: “No, never. Committing suicide with a small lace? It was visible that he was killed strangled.
And why would he have chosen to travel kilometers to commit suicide? He would have done it at home. Because here, we did not recognize him.”

The body of Tharcisse Macumi was discovered hanged in the vast forest known as “kwa Birihanyuma.”

According to JD, the young man was killed elsewhere and then brought into this forest. Long before? “No. Maybe the day before, because his body had not swollen yet. His stomach was not even swollen. It swayed in the air like a leaf, blown away by the wind”. Would he have fought with those who killed him? The eyewitness indicates that he had no injuries. “He had a little scar on his shoulders, nothing more.” Before arriving in this forest, continues our source, he would have crossed a valley. Clay was visible on his clothes.

After the discovery of this body, the local administration called the local police that made a report. The identification of the corpse was immediately done thanks to the health insurance card found in the pocket of his pants. They realized that it was Tharcisse Macumi, a soldier with the rank of corporal in the 22nd battalion located in Gitega Commune and Province. A sharpshooter, according to some sources.

A delegation from this military camp will come around 7:00 p.m. to recover the body of Tharcisse Macumi which will later on be deposited in the mortuary of Gitega Hospital. Reportedly, the army refused to recognize a homicide. It would be speaking about suicide, a denial which would however contrast with the report of the investigative police officer (OPJ) who was on the ground according to the same testimony. Tharcisse Macumi was buried on Monday January 6 in Rutovu, his hometown. The burial took place at the expense of his family. He did not receive military honors following the misunderstanding about the reasons for his death.

The warning signs of his death

The information gathered about this death converge on one point: “Zeno (that’s how he was called in the locality where he lived) was frowned upon in recent days”. While traveling with his family at the end of 2019, Tharcisse Macumi would have made a farewell to his family. “Goodbye. I may not know if we will see each other again.” His family members did not understand, but he insisted on making himself understood.
“There are individuals who have been tailing me recently. They were in Hilux-type vehicle with tinted windows.”

Who had been following him? He suspected them.

According to sources from the 22nd Battalion, Tharcisse Macumi knew he was suspected for some weeks. According to them, intelligence agents took his cell phone from him and checked it before handing it over to him a few days later. Witnesses say that these agents discovered through telephone messages that Tharcisse Macumi had some collaboration with a rebel movement. “It was from that time that he began to be chased after.”

Before his disappearance, he was said to have received several telephone calls from known or anonymous contacts accusing him of collaborating with rebels. Friends have suggested that he go into exile. But he would have refused, saying that he was innocent and accused himself of nothing. He continued to work at the Presidential Palace of Gitega where he was assigned until December 29, the day when everything changed.

Abduction and execution

Tharcisse Macumi was allegedly abducted while having a drink at “kwa Birihanyuma” bar.

The testimonies given are divided between two versions on the death of Tharcisse Macumi. However, the two agree on two details. The first: “He was called in the evening of December 30 by a” friend”, probably a colleague, to share a drink. We haven’t seen him ever since. ” The second is that on Sunday December 29, Tharcisse Macumi had escaped an abduction. “Unknown people in a car with tinted windows had tried to kidnap him, in the evening, while he was going about his activities at the presidential palace of Gitega. He escaped and ran to the camp (the 22nd Battalion) and told the commander who told him to stay there.”

One of the two versions is the abduction from the “Tuyage” bar located on Masenga hill. The man who called Tharcisse Macumi asked him to join him at this bar. This is where those who captured him awaited him. He was reportedly kidnapped a few minutes after arriving at Tuyage bar by four young men.

Macumi was then allegedly taken to Kinyamaganga, a valley which separates Nyabututsi-rural and Mushasha neighborhoods, not far from the “Kwa Birihanyuma” bush. Another group of young people are said to have joined the first group in this valley and to have cut the victim’s tongue. Some of those who paid the last tribute to Tharcisse Macumi at the Gitega Hospital mortuary confirm that his tongue was cut.

At Tuyage Bar, Iwacu interviewed several people who claimed to have never been aware of any abduction of one of the customers. “How can I not know that whereas I’m always here?” says a watchman of this bar.

The second version is that after the phone call, unknown people would have dragged him towards the presidential palace of Gitega where they would have beaten him before cutting his tongue.
In all cases, residents of Nyabututsi report cries of a man calling for help in the middle of the night of December 30, when at the same time they heard the sound of a vehicle’s engine. At SOS Hospital in Nyabututsi, patients even got up that night to see what was going on. However, the “vehicle was already gone”.

Contacted, the Army spokesman says that he will be able to speak shortly after investigations.

Story written by Edouard Nkurunziza and Fabrice Manirakiza

and translated into English by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana