Jean Bigirimana

Honoring the disappeared, preserving the living

From this 22 August, exactly one month after Jean has gone missing, Iwacu begins a grieving week.

Since the beginning of its activities eight years ago, Iwacu has experienced difficult times; journalists have been intimidated and threatened. Two journalists were forced to flee the country. As far as I am concerned, I have been the victim of a serious charge of “breach of state institutions”…

Survivor of the “purification by fire” of May 2015, that other independent media suffered, Iwacu believed the worst was over. The disappearance of Jean proves us that this was not the case. We consider Jean’s missing as an attack, the worst thing they can do against an independent news media: they attacked what we hold most dear, the life of a journalist.

Despite the shock, Iwacu newsroom resisted, we tried everything to find our colleague. I take this this opportunity to thank all those who supported us, these anonymous citizens who delivered information that allowed us to discover two bodies in the area where John was abducted.

Those who kidnapped and killed Jean probably would say they won. They think that after the end of the mourning week, we will give up and forget the case. No, we will not forget Jean. We will continue to look for him and we strongly believe that the truth will be known someday for sure.

We will file a complaint “against X”. This must be the smile of course of killers, when you know the current situation of our judicial system. But we remain hopeful that justice will be done one day and that these people will pay the price: impunity cannot last forever .

Our hope to find Jean alive is weakened. If we mourn today, we can truly engage in this process until we know what happened to Jean, with convincing evidence.

At the international level, Iwacu will file a complaint through the Trial International, to the UN Working Group on forced disappearances. Burundi government authorities will have to respond. We are grateful to organizations engaged in defending human rights and freedom of the press for their support in these extremely tough times. We also thank those who relayed our worries on different information networks. You strengthen us; we know we are not alone.

This Thursday, we are inaugurating a plate dedicated to our colleague Jean so that he will remain present and unforgettable among us. We also call for the support of Jean’s family. Our colleague has left behind a spouse who is still a student and two children aged 8 and 3. Honor those who have disappeared. Preserve those who are still alive. We count on your generosity.

After the mourning, life has to go on. We have to remain strong, determined to continue our mission to inform the public. By so doing, we will be paying tribute to Jean.