Is CNL party undesirable?

After the destruction of their party’s office in Nyabiraba commune, nine activists of the National Congress for Liberty (CNL) accused of arson were sentenced to two years in prison. The leaders of this party accuse the Imbonerakure and the administration of being behind this fire but the latter reject the accusations. Grey areas are reported over this incident.

Some of the CNL activists were sentenced to two years in prison on Wednesday, June 19th.

Nine CNL party members were sentenced to two years in prison by Bujumbura high court. The verdict came down on Wednesday, June 19. Those CNL members are Juvénal Bazombanza, Dieudonné Nshimirimana, Charles Misago, Richard Ndayishimiye, David Ndikumana, Paul Nizigama, Berchmans Nsabimana, Augustin Baransegeta and Gilbert Miburo.

Térence Manirambona, spokesman for CNL party, finds it unacceptable that people are sentenced on charges of “complicity in the arson”. “We need to know the perpetrators of the act”.
He recalls that this office was burned just after the police had carried away the party activists who were on the scene. Mr. Manirambona added that those who had come for the inauguration of this office and who were forced to turn back are today summoned to appear before the court. “Others are beaten up and persecuted.” The CNL party spokesman says that this file raises a lot of questions.

How it all went down

On the night of Saturday, June 15, the provincial office of CNL party was burned. Its inauguration was scheduled for the next day. There are questions from every side especially since there had been three attempts to burn it.

That night, several Inyankamugayo (CNL members) came to watch over their office at the center of Nyabiraba commune. “We were six natives of Nyabiraba and nine came from Rumonge province, Kanyosha and even Bujumbura city,” says a CNL activist met on the spot.

In the morning, several militants had flocked to Nyabiraba. They had come to prepare for the party. “The communal police commissioner told us that he did not want that people sleep at the party’s office. He told us that there would be no problem because the police were keeping a close watch… ”
As they were a bit reassured and wanted to abide by the order of the commissioner, says an activist, some returned to their respective communes. “Nine of them could not have their fare. They stayed in Nyabiraba locality. Since they did not have a place to stay, they were told to sleep inside the party’s office.”
The six natives of Nyabiraba remained outside of the party office which is on the tarred national road-RN7.

“Around 9:30 p.m., four policemen passed by and greeted us. A few minutes later, two young men and two girls passed by. They entered a house next door. At that moment, we had suspicions. CNL activists send one of theirs to see what was happening.

“These young people attacked him right away. There was an altercation that did not last long. They were the Imbonerakure (young members of the ruling party CNDD-FDD).

The burning of the party’s office

The office of CNL party burned in Nyabiraba.

A few minutes later, the communal police commissioner, Dismas Mazuru, arrived with a squad of more than 10 policemen. “They asked us the names of those who have just bickered. We showed him the people we suspect, but he did not react.” However, say CNL activists, they began to search us and also seized our mobile telephones. “The commissioner asked us how many people were in the party’s office. We told him that there were nine people who could not go home. He sent the police inside to search them. “The police found nothing suspicious.

Surrounded by police officers, all 15 CNL activists were taken to the police station. “The commissioner told us that we would go back to the party’s office after our identification. Even our bags stayed inside. After identification, they were brought directly to the police station. “That’s when we saw the fire coming out of our party’s office. The police went to RN7 firing shots, but our office was already on fire”. This is confirmed by residents who live near the burned office.

The next day at 9 a.m., the six natives of Nyabiraba were released. The other nine remained in jail. “By only releasing the Nyabiraba natives, they wanted to protect the real culprits by showing that the fire was caused by people from elsewhere whereas it is false. The proof is that the fire started while they were in the dungeon.

“An announced act”

Agathon Rwasa: “No one can explain how this act can be perpetrated just a few meters from the police station and no one perpetrator is apprehended”

For Agathon Rwasa, President of CNL party, what happened in Nyabiraba area is not an accident because, according to reliable sources, “the provincial and communal administration had sworn that CNL party could not establish itself in this locality.” According to him, the authorities at ministerial level would have intervened to remind them that it is an officially agreed party and that it has the right to settle wherever it wants.”

Even after this order, the owner of the house has been threatened. “The communal administration would have asked him to either return the rental guarantee or simply use it however he wants, but not to allow the inauguration of CNL party to take place.”
In addition, the President of CNL party mentions the existence of an audio of Nyabiraba administrator, threatening the owner of this house which would be the office of his party.

According to him, in this audio that Iwacu listened to, the house owner received a clear warning: his house would be destroyed if ever he went against the order of the administrator.
Mr. Rwasa suspects that the administration would be involved in this fire. “Otherwise, it would have taken all measures to prevent the worst from happening, especially since a first attempt had been thwarted by the intervention of some brave policemen.” He also says that a second attempt almost happened. “As there was a general alert, it failed.”

The police are also accused, because, says Mr. Rwasa, the crime was committed after the arrest of the party members who were watching over this party office.
“We suspect the complicity of the police operating in this area. No one can explain how this act can be perpetrated just at about ten meters from the police station without the perpetrators being apprehended by the police.”

Moreover, given the damage, the demolition of the walls, the piles of wood brought to burn this house, the president of CNL party is convinced that this act was not committed in a fraction of second. He deplores the fact that the administration has given no track of investigations so far.

The administration speaks of infiltration

Contacted, Dismas Mazuru, the communal police commissioner, did not want to react. Ferdinand Simbananiye, communal administrator, gives another version of the facts. Before this act, he says, the tax collector who was at the barrier established near this party office reported strangers on motorcycles. ” They hid behind the office. And the police searched them.” According to this administrator, 15 young men were caught. “Among them, there were strangers in our commune. Seven of them were from Kanyosha commune, one from Muha in Bujumbura city, one from Bugarama in Rumonge province and six from Nyabiraba.”

After this search, Mr. Simbananiye claims that they were taken to an interrogation site. On the way, he says, there was an explosion and the party’s office caught fire, what led the police to go back to put out the fire. He reports that even the population has given a helping hand to limit the damage. For him, there was an infiltration in his commune.

What about the perpetrators of this act? “We should wait for the results of the investigation. The arrested people are being interrogated,” he says before correcting:
“Maybe during the search, there were some who hid behind the house and committed this act after the police left.” According to him, no one had informed either the administration or the police of the presence of CNL activists at this office.

Benjamin, the leader of the Imbonerakure in Nyabiraba commune, refutes these accusations. “When the office caught fire, I was in Ijenda. These are blatant lies. Otherwise, I would have known that. ”

A disturbing sound

Shortly after this fire, the audio mentioned by Mr. Rwasa circulated on social media. In a voice of a man, a warning was sent to François, the owner of the house where the office of CNL was established.
Asked about the veracity of this sound, Mr. Simbananiye washed his hands of it: “I think it’s a fabrication. I too heard this audio. But, those who do it have a purpose.” This administrator says that even the photo used was taken from his profile on WhatsApp.” There, it was after community work. I was not calling anybody. I do not even recognize that voice which is attributed to me,” he says.

Nevertheless, François Habonimana, owner of this house acknowledges having received this call. “I do not know who recorded it, but he phoned me one day and he said that. I am not engaged in a dispute with the administrator and I am not a member of any political party,” he says.

Today, the owner of this house that was set ablaze asks that his house be repaired. “I have invested a lot in the construction of this house to make money out of it. My children will starve.”
This man does not expect anything from the investigations. According to him, the arrested men are CNL members.
He does not understand how it’s the same people who would have set this house on fire. After the fire, Mr. Habonimana says his family no longer feels safe.

The first attempt failed

On the night of Wednesday, June 12, unidentified people tried to burn this house. They came from many sides. Two young people from Mayemba hill were caught by the population during the night. “They said they were going to Nyabiraba because they had been called for a job. They quoted a headmaster named Isaac Ntibampamata and a teacher Sadock Ntahomvukiye from Lycée Mayemba,” say the inhabitants of Nyabiraba. According to them, those who burned CNL party’s office came from Kigina zone. “We asked that there be investigations, but nothing has been done so far,” say CNL activists.

They say the provocation began long before. “Two of our men were arrested by the leader of the Imbonerakure, arguing that they did not have an identity card. He ordered a policeman to imprison them.” According to them, they spent two days in prison. The Imbonerakure chief assumed: “As a member of the Joint Security Committee, I have the right to arrest any person that I suspect s/he would disturb the security of the country.”

Is CNL undesirable in Nyabiraba?

Ferdinand Simbananiye: “I have no interest in preventing this party from operating.”

According to testimonies collected in Nyabiraba, former supporters of FNL came from all the hills to speak ill of Agathon Rwasa. “They told us that Rwasa is undesirable in Bujumbura province, that he should bring these CNL stories to his native province of Ngozi.”

These inhabitants of Nyabiraba commune say those FNL party supporters benefited from the support of the administration, especially from the communal administrator, Ferdinand Simbananiye. Meetings with the zone chiefs and hill leaders were also organized.

“They were being told to stop people from having their houses rented by CNL party. It was said that their houses would be destroyed”. People were scared.
According to CNL activists, they have been threatened since the approval of their party. “In Nyabiraba, the power is in the hands of the Imbonerakure (youth affiliated to the ruling party). An administrative official cannot say a word to them. Some CNL officials say they do not sleep at home anymore. “The Imbonerakure have started conducting surveillance on CNL militants,” said one party leader in Nyabiraba commune.

CNL members say they have been in constant fear since the last Saturday’s incident. “This does not bode well for us. We fear that we might be killed or imprisoned given how the party’s office has been damaged.”

In addition, they say, the administrator does not make it easy for them. “He disrupts our meetings. Sometimes he even publicly accuses CNL of bringing weapons into the country.”
For CNL activists, administrative officials must differentiate the party’s affairs from those of the country. “If CNDD-FDD activists do not want CNL party in Bujumbura province, that they ask the Minister of the Interior to strike it off and that they stop mistreating us.

“If they do not, they say, may they let us work in peace.”The administrator must give the opportunity to all parties to operate. In addition, “he should stop favoring the ruling party only”.
For Benjamin Simbananiye, no other commune respects political tolerance than Nyabiraba.
Accused of not tolerating the presence of CNL in his commune, Mr. Simbananiye speaks of a lie: “I have no interest in preventing this party from operating in this commune. Several political parties work in our commune. “He cites CNDD-FDD, UPRONA, FNL and FRODEBU-Nyakuri parties.
Regarding CNL, he says that he has already received letters from the representatives of this party in his commune.

For him, what matters is the respect for the procedures for holding meetings. “No party can accuse me of having prevented it from holding a meeting. All they need to do is just to ask for authorization.”
He also says that some parties want to hold meetings in the stadium while the period for the propaganda campaign is not announced yet. “We ask them to work in their offices.”
This administrative official mentions a peaceful coexistence between members of different political parties. “Burundi belongs to us all. The divergence of ideas is not a problem. On the contrary, it is an asset to develop our commune, our country,” he says.

He invites them to put forward the general interest and the people because, he explains, they are the ones who decide. “And at the time of the elections, that both of them respect the verdict of the polls.”
Mr. Simbananiye says that there are signs of insecurity in Nyabiraba commune. He talks about the discovery of two grenades in Mukonko locality and another one in Matara as well as police uniforms. And last month, two rifles, ten loaded cartridge and more than 1,000 bullets were found at the junction of three hills namely Musenyi, Matara and Nyabiraba.

“These are signs that show that security is not total in our commune,” he says.
He adds that on Friday, June 14, the administration was informed of the presence of two armed men in Musenyi area. “We could not stop them. They had vanished in the bush.”
Without specifying their identity, Mr. Simbananiye said he had information on probable training on the use of weapons in his commune. He reveals that three people from Musenyi hill have already been arrested for investigative reasons.


– Ni sawa Francis ? (How are you François?)
– N ‘impore kabisa . (I am really fine)
– Hewe birya bintu ngira vyaguhagaritse umutima? (Well, I think that issue got you worried, didn’t it?)
– Egoooo (Yes)
– Mugabo jewe impanuro noguha nuko wofata ikintu kimwe muri ibi bintu ngira nkubarire. Basha ayo mahera uyabasubize canke uyarye ubabwire uti nzoyabasubiza igume yugaye. Kuko ukabaha iyi nzu yawe irabomoka ntakibuza kabisa sindakubesha. Kuko abo bantu turabarwanije ijana kw’ijana mw’i komine yacu . Ukabaha irya nzu yawe umenye ko uzoba uyihevye . Kandi urumva igipfa caburiwe n’impongo. ( Man, I advise you to choose one between these two options: Either you give them back this money or you use it and tell them that you will repay, but that the house remains closed.
If you give them this house, it will inevitably be destroyed. Seriously, I do not lie to you because we oppose 100% the presence of these people in our commune. If you give them your house, know that you will have abandoned it. Forewarned is forearmed.)

Translated into English by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana