Muyinga : Fear in Butihinda

After the clashes in Rukira locality in Butihinda Commune of Muyinga Province on April 20, the members of the opposition are filled with fear. They say they are intimidated, arrested, imprisoned, prevented from mourning for theirs, etc., what the administration and the police reject. Iwacu reporters arrived on the scene.

Some wounded people, the machetes and clubs used in the clashes of April 20.

Under a gray sky on Monday, April 29, Rukira, a hill in Butihinda commune rises towards Kamaramagambo area in Muyinga Northern Province. A dirt road edged with giant eucalyptuses divides Rukira into two. On this very afternoon, the weather is bad on this road and the traffic is not heavy. Some young men, in small groups, two or three, walk around. Some hurry. “They are Imbonerakure (youth affiliated to the ruling party),” says Gaspard, (not his real name) a forty-year-old man. “They come from a meeting with the administrator,” adds Jacques (nickname).

In our car, the two men, our sources, turn their faces and hide. They avoid being spotted by these Imbonerakure, with strangers in the locality.
There has been total political mistrust in the area in recent days. Both are well-known and long time members of FRODEBU party.

At a given time, in a bend, Jacques gets out of the car. He had not arrived yet at his destination. Both are neighbors. “We cannot get out of the car at the same time. It’s important that they do not see us together,” explains Gaspard. He will get out of the car a little later.

At the end of the road, there is a small center. Around, there are about twenty houses built with adobe bricks and covered with straws or tiles. They are bars, small shops, restaurants, etc. It’s Gisozi center. Young people start to arrive, one by one.

We walked through banana plantations, bean fields, lush greenery, up to about 800 meters. There, there is a new center, which looks like that of Gisozi, but smaller. We are in Nyarugunda area where took place clashes between the Imbonerakure and some opposition militants. Jacques and Gaspard were there. They tell facts…

The confrontations

It was around 7 p.m. at Nyarugunda center. Jibril Niyonkuru, chairman of Cndd-Fdd ruling party on Rukira hill, makes a phone call to Said Nyamarushwa, vice president of the party in Butihinda commune. Moments later, three motorbikes arrive each with three people. Nyamarushwa is with 8 Imbonerakure with cudgels.

They immediately attacked those they find in one of the bars in Nyarugunda. A woman and three men were severely beaten. The rest ran away. The attackers got on their motorcycles, leaving the victims half dead, lying on the ground. They move to Gisozi center for the same act.
But on this hill, rumors of an imminent attack by Imbonerakure had been circulating for a while. “The Imbonerakure had invented a rumor of illegal meetings being held by opponents. We knew it was their strategy to hunt down some of us.”
In Gisozi center, these young people could not find anyone. Opponents had already been warned of the attack.

The three motorcycles turn back towards Nyarugunda. There, the militants of CNL and Frodebu parties had reorganized and formed a coalition.

The fight begins. These invaders are seriously beaten and their motorcycles damaged. They then call the police intervention. They come very quickly. Without asking anything, they join forces with the youths affiliated to the party of the Eagle (Cndd-Fdd) and fight the opponents. They defend themselves and resist. The police shoot twice in the air to stop the fight in vain.

Finally, the president of the Imbonerakure in the province, a certain Shabani, comes with a vehicle full of the youths from Muyinga commune. Two of the opponents, Ismael Bahati and Antoine Karenzo, were then arrested. Others took off.

The hunt begins…

The Nyarugunda center where the first clashes took place

Sunday, April 20. That night, the searches by these Imbonerakure resulted in the arrest of Etienne Ntegerejimana and Elie Nduwimana, members of CNL party. They were taken to Nyarugunda center and beaten to death before being released.

Monday, April 21. It is the turn of Aloys Ncishubwenge, a Frodebu party activist, Bernard Mvukiye, Claver Nzitunga, Zacharie Nizigiyimana and Claude Macumi, CNL activists. All of them are beaten in front of their homes, under the orders of Said Nyamarushwa.

The first will succumb to the blows on the spot. The other four are taken to the center of Butihinda commune. There, they will also be beaten before being taken home in very critical conditions. After a while, Nizigiyimana will lose consciousness.

Tuesday, April 22nd. Adamon Nshimirimana, representative of CNL in Butihinda, as well as Elie and Manirambona, militants of this party, are arrested in Rukira. They had come to console the victims of the previous attack. They got imprisoned at the police station in Muyinga.
Some wives of men who fled will also be victims. Among others, there is the wife of Révérien Nduwimana, president of Sahwanya Frodebu party in Butihinda commune. She was beaten on Tuesday as the Imbonerakure did not find her husband at home during the searches.

According to testimonies, the victims of these searches are not those who participated in the clashes. Some individuals who had been identified for a long time were targeted. The chief of Rukira has reportedly arrested 45 people in the aftermath of the clashes.
Those who are already held in Muyinga Central Prison are desperate. They only have one plea: “Give us permission to go for treatment. Our life goes from bad to worse following the blows that we received,” asks one of them with a husky voice due to cries he gave during the beating, on the day of his arrest.

The panic

On Monday, April 29, more than a week later, the consciences are not appeased yet. Intimidation, night patrols of young people affiliated to the CNDD-FDD, tailing … have increased. All sources contacted are reluctant to speak…
The family members of the late Aloys Ncishubwenge say they fear for their lives. They cannot receive visitors fearing persecution. They are under surveillance. Testimonies speak about young people who watch over them discreetly. All movement is monitored and controlled.

Since the death of Ncishubwenge, this family has not had the right to mourn. “Nobody can venture to visit him in order to comfort him. It would somehow be exposing ourselves to a danger. We cannot dare to do so”. Adamon Nshimirimana (of Kamaramagambo hill), Elie Nduwimana (Rukira) and Manirambona (Mugongo) who had overcome this fear on Tuesday, April 22, were arrested on the spot.
Those who were on the scene on the day of the clashes, the families whose relatives are imprisoned or have fled, are filled with the same terror.

At first, terrorized, the few witnesses that Iwacu met elsewhere than on their hills had refused any meeting with journalists. “We cannot even move. We are tailed.” It was necessary to seek strategies to meet them so that they could pass incognito.

For Innocent Haringanji, collaboration is good between political parties

All sources encountered in Butihinda claim that the visit of the Governor and the Provincial Police Commissioner, on Thursday, April 24, is not reassuring. “Instead of calling for investigations to find out the perpetrators, they only intimidated opponents.”
Arrests continue. A source in Butihinda says that Macaire Banyankindagiye, Idi Itangimana and Issa Bimenyimana were arrested on Tuesday (April 30th) in Cankuzo. “They had fled Butihinda after Sunday’s clashes. We fear the worst,” says a close friend of them.

“Butihinda is quiet”

On the administration side, the security situation is good. “Nobody can say there have been clashes between members of political parties in Rukira. They are people who fought in a bar,” says Innocent Haringanji, administrator of Butihinda commune.

Simply, he says, as it is in a pre-election period, any dispute is politically interpreted. “Butihinda commune is quiet.” This administrative official rejects this accusation that it is mainly the members of CNL party who are targeted: “This party does not exist in our commune. We have only six parties namely Cndd-Fdd, Frodebu, Frodebu-Nyakuri, FNL, Uprona and UPD.” Mr. Haringanji says that there is peaceful coexistence between them. “They ask for permission to hold meetings and it is given to them.”
And he ironically says: “Despite this list, on the ground, we only see Cndd-Fdd. For example, members of Uprona party are very few.”

Asked about those who killed Ncishubwenge, Mr. Haringanji firmly assures that the perpetrators have been arrested and brought before justice. He calls for more attention to the “rumors” spread on social media. “Those who propagate them do so purposefully and have their own interests.” A curfew has been imposed: “Since April 24, we have set the opening of bars at least at 1 p.m. and the closing hour is set at not later than 9 p.m.”


Shrinking of political space

Térence Manirambona

“Some might wonder if there would be a harassment plan for political opponents,” denounces Térence Manirambona, spokesman for CNL. He regrets that the political space is “shrinking” and “bogged down” for opponents on the eve of the 2020 elections. He also deplores the death of a person on Rukira hill in Butihinda commune of Muyinga province due to this political intolerance. “We sympathize with all the militants who are languishing in prison and we deplore the cases of members wounded following this intolerance.” This deputy reminds the administrator of Butihinda that CNL party is approved and recognized by the Ministry of the Interior. “There is no motive allowing the use of torture, mob justice or killing of a person.” According to him, this would mean, the resignation of Justice. Mr. Manirambona calls on Justice to pursue those responsible for these acts.


Léonce Ngendakumana

For Léonce Ngendakumana, vice-president of Frodebu party, what happened in Butihinda is not an isolated case. “We are heading towards a state where the law of the jungle reigns”. According to this opponent, this is proof that the party in power is afraid of the elections of 2020. What is absurd, he continues, is that communal, provincial authorities, etc. minimize the atrocities suffered by opponents in Butihinda.

“They talk of a fight in a bar as if those who go there deserve death.” Mr Ngendakumana reminds them that the death penalty no longer exists. In short, he finds that this state of terror aims to force everyone to join the party in power or to remain a member no matter what.” Today, some of our members live in hiding. Frodebu vice president is appalled that authorities are preventing a family from mourning. “It is a practice we experienced in 1972 that we did not think we would relive more than 50 years later.”

“There is peaceful coexistence among the population”

Jérôme Ntibibogora

Jérôme Ntibibogora, police commissioner in Muyinga province, says that there is peaceful coexistence between the people of Rukira currently. “No distrust at all. The clashes that took place on Sunday did not last. The provincial governor and I had meeting there. We gave them advice,” he says.
According to him, the population themselves testified, during a visit on this hill by parliamentarians elected in Muyinga constituency, that the fight of Sunday, April 20 had nothing to do with the political parties. “We fought due to drunkenness and arrogance, not because of our political opinions.”
Asked why those who were arrested are of one side, Commissioner Ntibibogora replies: “If someone arrogates to himself the right to block a passer-by and damages his motorbike, who else would you like us to arrest?”

He reassures those who do not feel safe. He asks them to confide in the police. “We will stop those who threaten others. Nobody has the right to do so. Political parties must operate freely.”
On the non-arrest of the president of Imbonerakure in Muyinga and the vice-president of Cndd-Fdd in Butihinda, cited as the instigators of the Rukira clashes, Mr. Ntibibogora refrains from commenting. “We have entrusted this to the prosecutor so that he conduct investigations. He will give us some insight into that,” says Ntibibogora.

“It’s a lie”

“I learned about these clashes from home as you learnt them through the phone,” says Said Nyamarushwa, vice president of Cndd-Fdd party in Butihinda commune. He is mentioned as the leader of the team of the Imbonerakure who carried out an attack in Rukira. “It’s a lie. I was not there.” This member of Cndd-Fdd party says he does not even know exactly what happened. “I was at home, sick.”
For him, those who mention him in this story are his enemies. “Certainly, they have other interests.”


Translated into English by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana