Kirundo: Political intolerance escalates

From Bwambarangwe to Ntega via Bugabira, the communes of Kirundo province in the north of the country, political intolerance is on the rise.

Some victims of political intolerance in Ntega, Kirundo province

Members of the National Congress for Liberty (CNL) led by Agathon Rwasa are beaten and arrested. They point the finger at the administration and the Imbonerakure of the ruling party.

Fabrice Sendegeya has difficulty uttering one word. He speaks softly. One has to get too close to hear what he says. “I have throbbing pains in the chest and have difficulty breathing.” He’s bleeding. His face is swollen. Just like his friend Vincent Ndikumana. There are marks on his chest. Unlike his friend, he manages to pronounce words, but painfully. “Talking and breathing is very painful. I have endless headaches,” he says.

The two CNL party militants, along with two others, were beaten by the Imbonerakure (youth affiliated to the ruling party CNDD-FDD) on Sunday, June 9, at 4 p.m., on Gitwenzi hill in Ntega commune of Kirundo province.

On that day, while sipping at his corn beer commonly known as Umugorigori, Fabrice Sendegeya was initially mistreated by an Imbonerakure named Murengera who accused him of spying for CNL party. Originally from Susa hill, in Murungurira area, Fabrice Sendegeya did not respond to provocation. He continued to enjoy his beer.

After a few minutes, another Imbonerakure named Pasteur Nduwayo, leader of the CNDD-FDD party on Susa hill turns up. Fabrice Sendegeya owes him money. Pasteur begins to claim his money. Sendegeya tells him that he does not have any, but promises to repay him soon.

“He lent me BIF 108,000. He took my mobile phone to get the BIF 40,000 we are given every two months in Merankabandi project. Only BIF18, 000 is left, “he says.

According to eyewitnesses, Pasteur Nduwayo continued to insult him by saying that he was also an “igipinga” (opponent). “He promised him an unforgettable thrashing,” say eyewitnesses.

The beating

The provocation continued. “He swung at Fabrice’s back with a stool while he was leaving.” Three friends of Fabrice Sendegeya namely Vincent Ndikumana, Révérien Nsabimana and Jean Baptiste Sharangabo, also CNL members, got indignant about this aggression. Pasteur Nduwayo called the other Imbonerakure. “They came in large numbers and some wore military boots.” Witnesses mention Murengera, Murasandovyi, Kabura, Nzitunga, Népo, Edouard, Innocent Nshemezimana aka Mutama, Benoît Gahungu, Ndabaneze…

They started fighting. Anyone used anything they had. No body part was spared. People witnessed this scene helplessly. The Imbonerakure were very hard on Fabrice Sendegeya. This father of two children received a violent kick on the chest. “I saw him falling on the ground. He even lost consciousness, “says an eyewitness.

The fight continued on the remaining three. Vincent Ndikumana received a blow on the chest. “He was vomiting blood. On the ground, the Imbonerakure continued kicking him in the stomach.”

Seeing that these militants of CNL were likely to succumb to the blows they received, the Imbonerakure vanished. The victims were taken to Kirundo Hospital, 7 km from the scene.

Always unconscious, Fabrice Sendegeya was carried off on a traditional stretcher and others on bicycles. “I regained consciousness at 1 a.m. I did not know how I got to the hospital,” says Fabrice Sendegeya. They spent two days in the hospital. “Since we did not have money, we did not want health care costs to increase. We were given some medicine.”

“Effect of alcohol”

Today, the victims demand that the culprits be punished in accordance with the law. On Tuesday, June 11, they went to the prosecutor of Kirundo to lodge a complaint. The alleged culprits were summoned to appear this Friday, June 14, 2019.

Asked about this incident, Jean Marie Mugumyankiko alias Sindyibigori, chairman of CNDD-FDD party, did not want to say anything. “I do not give information.”

Philippe Ngabonziza: “There is no political motive behind the case of Gitwenzi”

Contacted, Philippe Ngabonziza, Administrator of Ntega commune of Kirundo province says that no roof is on fire in his commune. “There is no political motive behind Gitwenzi’s case. It’s just three young people including two brothers who had an argument due to alcohol.”

He reported that only two people went to complain. He also defends a certain Sindyibigori, the leader of the party in this area accused of calling on the Imbonerakure to beat CNL members.

Philippe Ngabonziza says that there is peaceful coexistence between members of different political parties in his commune. According to him, the members of CNL party are not even numerous. “The problem is that when someone does something wrong and that justice wants to deal with them; they shout loudly that they are victim of their political affiliation.”

Arrests by Imbonerakure

On 2 June 2019, in Busoni commune, Isaac Majambere and Désiré Wamiye, all CNL activists and teachers at Vyanzo Basic School paid a visit to Rémegie Uwizeyimana, CNL party chairman in Busoni commune. After talking to one another for a few minutes, the last two were stopped by the Imbonerakure. This happened on Rwibikara hill in Gisenyi area. The police came to pick them up and brought them to the provincial police station. Rémégie Uwizeyimana was apprehended the next day by the police at his workplace at Bishisha Communal High School. The reason for these arrests is that they held an illegal meeting. Rémegie Uwizeyimana is also accused of collecting money for the construction of CNL party office in Busoni commune.

They were released on Tuesday, June 11th. “They spent 10 days in jail without being examined. They were simply told to go home, their file was empty, “said a CNL activist in Kirundo.

“In Kirundo province, the Imbonerakure have arrogated to themselves the right to arrest people. What is the job of the police? Besides, how can collecting money for the construction of the party office be a crime? CNDD-FDD party does it all the time and publicly and even members from other parties are obliged to contribute,” says another CNL activist.

Political turmoil over upcoming elections exacerbates political intolerance

In the months of May and June, there have been cases where CNL activists are attacked or arbitrarily arrested in almost all the communes of Kirundo province. The accusing finger is always pointed at the Imbonerakure.

On June 2, a group of the Imbonerakure alongside one of their leaders, Céléus Ntirandekura, attacked some CNL party activists. They beat several people including Léonard Emerusenge Rwasa Euphrasie, Mathieu Sinzobakwira, etc. It was on Gihinga hill in Baziro area in Gitobe commune. Defenseless, two CNL militants preferred to hide. Seven others opted to seek refuge at the office of the Investigation police officer in the capital of the commune of Gitobe. They stayed there for several days. They returned home thanks to the intervention of the governor of Kirundo province.

Anatole Karorero, chairman of CNL party in Kirundo province, appreciates the governor’s intervention and urges the administration to become more involved in curbing this political intolerance. “More sensitization meetings are needed, because in parallel meetings, some members of the ruling party incite others to beat up “Injavyi”, referring to opponents”.
On 21 May 2019 in Bugabira commune, Charles Ndikumagenge and Jean Claude, CNL activists, were beaten by a group of eight Imbonerakure, including Miburo and Waba. It was on Gitwe hill. “Charles was coming from the commune where he had just delivered the letters of the party representation. He had gone to see Jean Claude,”says a resident of Gitwe. As he accompanied him around 5 p.m., they met the Imbonerakure who soundly thrashed them.

Both men went to the court. The public prosecutor summoned the eight Imbonerakure. “They came in being over 15. Some of them wore boots. They all entered the prosecutor’s office. I think they wanted to intimidate him. The prosecutor stood firm and kicked out those who were not summoned, “says a source who was at Kirundo prosecutor’s office.

Finally, these Imbonerakure were fined: payment of Charles Ndikumagenge’s torn suit (BIF30,000), travel expenses and health care costs for the victims. “We salute the prosecutor’s courage, but we would have liked them to be severely punished, but we know that an Imbonerakure never goes to prison. Otherwise, their abuses would have stopped, “says a CNL activist.

“A climate of terror reigns in Ntega”         

In Ntega commune, opposition activists, especially those from CNL party, do not know where to go. According to them, a climate of terror reigns. “In Ntega, it is the Imbonerakure who rule. The administration is absent,” said a resident of Ntega commune.

According to the inhabitants, some local administrative officials are complicit with these Imbonerakure or are afraid to oppose them.
“When you complain, you’re lucky if you’re only beaten. Otherwise you go directly to prison. Testimonies from Ntega commune indicate that the Imbonerakure provoke the inhabitants to buy them some crates of banana beer. “Some Imbonerakure are no longer doing field work. They move around to mistreat people. They live on racketeering. For an alleged fault, one pays up to five crates of banana beer “.

The inhabitants accuse the police of being lax. “The police cannot stop an Imbonerakure who has committed a crime. Some investigation police officers are even afraid to open a file. When we are beaten, we are advised to go for treatment without exposing scandal.

CNL party activists accuse CNDD-FDD party chairman in Ntega commune of stirring up intolerance.

“In their meetings, Sindyibigori calls the Imbonerakure to seriously beat up” ibipinga(opponents). He gives orders”. As for the communal administrator, he allows these actions of the Imbonerakure “. When asked about these allegations, Jean Marie Mugumyankiko aka Sindyibigori just hung up on us.

“Authorities must be informed »

Members of CNL party ask the administrative authorities to act fairly and stop being biased. “Whoever has committed a crime must be handed over to competent authorities. Beating people is not a solution.   For them, letting the Imbonerakure do whatever they want does not bode well. “The administrative authorities have to stop that.”

Alain-Tribert   Mutabazi, Governor of Kirundo province asks any abused person to report that to the administration.

“Authorities must be informed because, in most cases, young people squabble due to the effects of alcohol.   “The administration and justice are there to handle this fairly. He invites members of the different political parties to show mutual respect. “Even the organs at the hill level should respect each other.   ”

Mr. Mutabazi invites the youth to join associations, cooperatives instead of making early propaganda. “We must get down to development work to build our country.” He announced that awareness meetings on peaceful coexistence have already been scheduled. The administrators have already received that motto.

A distress call to Agathon Rwasa

Térence Manirambona   : “Why such a double standard for parties working under the same laws of the country?”

Beaten, abused, imprisoned, CNL party members ask their president to intervene. In addition, the provincial officials of the party indicate that the administration does not make it easy when they want to conduct their activities.

Confused, the Inyankamugayo (CNL members) appeal to their leader, Agathon Rwasa. “He must plead for us so that these abuses cease,” says an activist. “We joined the party because we have it in our blood. We cannot abandon it. Agathon Rwasa will think that he has sympathizers, but he will in the end realize that many have died while others have become disabled,” adds another.

For CNL members who accuse Agathon Rwasa of not denouncing these cases of injustice, his spokesman, Térence Manirambona, said he and his committee do so daily. For him, those who are responsible for this intolerance should change their bad behavior.

He also asks the administration to protect the population without distinction. “Injustice and discrimination have always led to confrontations. CNL activists are Burundians like so many others.”
Mr Manirambona warns the perpetrators of political intolerance: “Avoid falling into the traps of those who push them to perpetrate these acts. “Criminal responsibility is individual,” he says.

To members of his party, he asks them not to give in to fear, provocation and intimidation “because, we fight for a noble cause: to build a country for al andl where fairness, harmony and prosperity reign.”

He also invites them to abstain from any sort of revenge, be models of peaceful coexistence and bring perpetrators to justice.

He sends a message to the courts: “Imprisonment must be an exception and not a rule for handling cases, including those of a political nature.”

CNL is manhandled

CNL party officials in Kirundo province criticize some administrative officials who block the activities of their party. “Sometimes, we are prevented from opening our offices because they are either close to a school or a market,” says the president of CNL party in Kirundo province. It is difficult, he continues, to find a house to rent far from the capitals of communes especially since they are small. “Generally, the houses we rent are located at 300 m from the schools”. CNL activists do not understand these reasons advanced by the administrative officials. “Why are CNDD-FDD members allowed to erect their monuments inside the markets?”

Térence Manirambona demands that there be uniformity for all parties:“Removing all the party offices in these places. In this case, we will understand that there is no injustice.” Besides, that the party offices are built close to churches, schools, Mr. Manirambona doesn’t see any problem. “The problem would be to hold meetings at the time of classes or mass.” In addition, the provincial president of the party mentions another constraint: “We are obliged to give the list of our members of the communal committees. This is not written anywhere in the law that governs political parties. In Bwambarangwe commune, for example, the communal administrator refused us to hold a meeting because of that”.
Asked, Fébronie Niyingabiye, Administrator of Bwambarangwe commune, assures that the CNL members often tell lies. “They dramatize things.” CNL activists suspect a way in order to identify their members and ill-treat them.

For Térence Manirambona, the administration must not interfere in the internal organization of political parties. “Why does the administration require the list of members of our committees? Why such a double standard for parties working under the same laws of the country?” He fears that the CNL party may be forced to reveal its members tomorrow.

Bujumbura province got contaminated

In Mubimbi commune of Bujumbura province, tensions between members of CNDD-FDD and those of CNL are reported. Some cases of wounded people have already been recorded. The communal administrator says he is conducting investigations.

The office of CNL party in Nyabiraba was almost burned

On Tuesday, June 11, it was the day of the market of Mubimbi in the province of Bujumbura. Men and women from different areas came to buy or sell their products. It’s in Kinama area. Several vehicles from Bujumbura had also come.

Hearing women talking, the price of cassava flour would have dropped. One kilogram costs BIF 500. “I will take the opportunity to have a stock,” said a lady who had just sold her sheep.

Nevertheless, this commune is not spared by political intolerance. This is the case of Léonie Habonimana from Gisagara Zone, a farmer hospitalized at Mubimbi Health Center located at 6 km from the market.
On Saturday, June 7, her family members were attacked and severely beaten. On the evening of the previous weekend, she says, she and her husband Siméon Habonimana, his big brother Athanase Niyonzima and his wife, had gotten together to share a drink in a bar not far from their homes.

“Around 7p.m., we decided to return. It is on our way back that we were attacked by individuals.   Blows of clubs came from everywhere,” she says, in a quavering voice.

They luckily managed to return to their homes. After he has arrived home, Mr. Niyonzima wanted to go back to fight with those who attacked him. After many supplications from his wife, he agreed not to start hostilities again.

Soon after, he went out to check that everything was fine in the cowshed.   That’s when his home was attacked.”   My husband was immobilized,” she says.   Meanwhile, the rest of the family tried to lock the doors so that the attackers do not enter. “It was just a wasted effort. The doors were smashed. “And the nightmare began. There were collective beatings. While the father was being seriously beaten outside, the mother and her three children spent a bad quarter of an hour in the house.   “Imagine hearing your father writhing in pain like a child. It’s really painful,” says Raissa Nizigima, the youngest of the family, aged 13 at her mother’s bedside.

Who beat them?

Unable to resist beatings, the Niyonzima’s tried to ask for forgiveness to those who were beating him.   “We never forgive,” they replied. This atrocious scene lasted about an hour. The attackers decide to move Mr. Niyonzima. His wife believed that her husband’s number was up.   “While beating him up, they said they would throw him into the Nambi River”.
The attackers went with Niyonzima to his elder brother Siméon Habonimana, who was also attacked and whose solar panel was stolen. Raissa Nizigama says her father returned home around 2 a.m. in a sorry state.

His ears could not hear properly. A certain Bigirimana, nephew of Niyonzima, who came to his rescue, was also wounded. What about the identity of the attackers? Mrs. Habonimana does not mince his words: “It was the Imbonerakure who attacked us. They always threatened us saying we are not of the same political formation.”

Indeed, she argues, the attacked individuals are all CNL party members. She mentioned a certain Dimi, Chief of the Imbonerakure on Rusagara hill as the leader of the band that attacked them.

She also says that during the attack on their homes, the attacker called his friends from the nearby hills of Gitsibo and Mubimbi to join them as reinforcements.

The next day, Siméon Niyonzima and his wife were transferred to Mubimbi Health Center at 3p.m. Mr Niyonzima could not leave the children alone and decided to return on Monday to see them. But, his health is gradually deteriorating. His wife walks with difficulty and the marks of the blows she received are still visible. It is now difficult for them to pay the bill for their health care. Because of lack of means, they do not know how to get by.

“Coexistence with the ruling party members was more or less good,” says Noé Ndayisenga, one of the officials of CNL party at the communal level. For him, tensions ran higher with the presentation of the leading bodies of the party in Mubimbi parish hall. This event occurred on Sunday, June 2nd.

On the same day, he said, clashes broke out at night in Kinama area. Ndayegaye, a member of CNL, was attacked and beaten at his home. “During this incident, his friend was injured.   He was taken for an aggressor by Ndayegaye when he came to his rescue. ”

Mr. Ndayisenga accuses a certain Bumwe, chief of the market in Kinama of being involved in the attack. For the time being, Ndayegaye is imprisoned for investigation.

Contacted over these incidents, Léonidas Ntirandekura, Administrator of Mubimbi commune promised to express herself after conducting investigations. “It’s up to the administration to shed light on these incidents.” In turn, Emmanuel Nduwimana, Chief of Imbonerakure in Mubimbi commune, was contacted by phone.

“In the night of Wednesday, June 12, “unknown people” tried to set fire on the office of this party whose opening was scheduled for Sunday, June 16 and is located in the communal capital,” says the CNL spokesman adding that the police intervened, but no alleged perpetrator was caught.

Written by Fabrice Manirakiza, Rénovat Ndabashinze and Arnaud Igor Giriteka. Translated into English by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana