Muyinga / Rugari Who attacked CNL party activists?

CNL militants returning from a ceremony to open their headquarters in Muyinga were ambushed by “criminals” on Sunday (August 18th) in Rugari area. One was killed and others wounded. CNL party members incriminate the Imbonerakure who completely refute the accusation. Two Iwacu reporters conducted the investigation.

For Joseph Nkurunziza; the attack had been prepared a long time ago

In Rutoke, one person was killed and another eight wounded in a surprise attack that occurred during the night of 18-19 August. They are all activists of the National Congress for Freedom, an opposition party. According to the victims, the aggressors are the Imbonerakure, the youth of the ruling party CNDD-FDD.

The administration and the police rather speak of “criminals”. What really happened?
Panic in the evening of Sunday 18 August

The traffic is busy in Muyinga provincial capital. One can see groups of people of all ages, silent but in a hurry. People on motorcycles and bicycles ride at a fast speed. Most of the activists of the National Congress for Freedom (CNL) are going back home. They have participated in the official opening of the provincial party office which took place in the afternoon of this Sunday. There is a big movement towards the bus station at the provincial capital. It is almost 5 p.m. People rush to go back home.

“For their safety, we advised them to go in groups of five,” says David (a nickname). He is a leader of CNL party in Muyinga. The fear is intense.
The activists have folded and hidden the clothes (sweaters, scarves and hats) with the party’s image or signs in bags.

“It’s a strategy because they would not take two paces forward with the party uniforms on without being stopped by the Imbonerakure,” says David.

Suddenly, an off-white car of “Allion” type comes. It stops in front of David and his three comrades. They stop, afraid. The car drives off, turns right and stops again. Nobody gets off.
“It’s the president of the Imbonerakure in Muyinga who is going round to spot some of those who are coming from the opening ceremonies of the party office. He has changed the car to avoid being noticed,” said David, before vanishing.

In front of the offices of the regional police headquarters, a young man covered with the flag of CNL party advances, proud, reassured and nonchalant. Beside him, there is an old man with a t-shirt and hat with the colors of CNL party. Passers-by look at them, admire them and speak to each other quietly…
The atmosphere at the provincial capital continued to be tense until around 6 p.m.

In Gasenyi area, at a kilometer towards Kobero , there seems to be also a worrying situation. Nearly 300 men, activists of CNL party from Giteranyi commune, seem bewildered in the party’s office that has just been opened.

Due to the lack of transportation to Giteranyi, they decide, with the approval of the provincial representatives of the party, to spend the night in their party’s office.
Giteranyi is very far: about 60km. Nevertheless, the provincial police commissioner orders them to get out. Negotiations between him and the representatives of CNL begin. In the office, the members of the party of Agathon Rwasa desperately await the outcomes of the negotiations…

A stampede

Last sunday was a day to open the provincial office

Negotiations fail. According to CNL members who were in the office, the police officers came around 10 p.m. and surrounded the office. They demanded that the activists go out.
Once outside, the Inyankamugayo (members of CNL party) decide to spend the night in a public square. They take the road to the offices of Muyinga province. “We went to spend the night in front of these offices where we thought that security would be assured.”

The procession is led by Jacqueline Uwizeye, representative of women activists of CNL party in Muyinga province. She is from Giteranyi commune. The crowd advances approximately 500 m, before being stopped by Jérôme Ntibibogora, the provincial police commissioner.
He openly tells them that he does not want to see them en masse. An order was given. “Policemen, do your job”.

This is the beginning of a stampede which will lead to one death. Blocked, obliged to disperse, the crowd stops next to the road, at the playground of Gasenyi Basic School. They sit on the ground. Immediately, Jacqueline Uwizeye says, the police start to beat them up.

Lost, not knowing which way to go, they disperse. “The police dispersed us unceremoniously”. After the stampede, the Inyankamugayo are found in two groups. One, of about 50 people, is composed of those who know the city of Muyinga. They have relatives who can shelter them for that night.

According to Frédéric Ntahondereye , CNL party Executive Secretary in Muyinga province , some of the militants of this group went to seek shelter at the head of Kinyota sub-hill . “He agreed to host them, but called the Imbonerakure at the same time. Our comrades were beaten and others were robbed on the streets of Muyinga.” He asks the police to do their job. “The chief of this sub-hill must be questioned. Those who have robbed our militants are known by everyone. Why don’t the police conduct investigations?” he wonders.

The second group of more than 250 individuals, decided to go back home, walking sixty kilometers to Giteranyi.

The road to tragedy

The place where the Inyankamugayo have been attacked

The crowd takes the road towards Kobero. Initially, Jacqueline Uwimana informed Commissioner Ntibibogora of their decision to go back home on foot. The two give each other contacts for a quick intervention in case an incident occurs…

The Muyinga – Kobero road is tarred. From Gasenyi, it is lined with coffee fields, banana and eucalyptus trees. Residential houses are rare except at a few small trading centers. The road is not lit. It is very dark at night.

Reassured by the number, the militants decide to walk in the darkness, minimizing any probable incident.

At one point, one of these CNL activists will go for a short call by the side of the road. In the bush, he is attacked by criminals. “By the time we heard him shouting, his clothes were already torn,” says Uwizeye.

At some 200 meters further, a motorbike with three people arrives. “It overtakes us and they point their torches to us.” Behind the crowd, another motorcycle turns up. “Those who are on it also light torches. The bike will stay behind us for a long time before turning back.”

In the group, some are afraid but activists are encouraging each other. “We were all united and determined. And the message of serenity from Agathon Rwasa, our leader, had comforted us,” say young people who were in the crowd.

The journey is long. After walking 16 km in a group made up of old people, women and children, some show signs of fatigue. At last, exhausted militants walk a little behind others.
And then suddenly … Like a lightning, an order to attack is given. A monotonous voice, very high, from a eucalyptus plantation is heard: “Assault!”

Individuals appear suddenly. “I checked my watch and it was exactly 00:16,” says Jacqueline.
At this point, the procession has just arrived at the place called “Kwitongo .” An endless bush made of several hectares of eucalyptus. At the distance (at least 1km), are the high school and Rugari parish…

Like a mad army, dozens of young men emerge from the bush at the same time. They are equipped with machetes, knives, clubs … “They immediately begin to sharpen their machetes on the tarred road. We could see sparks flying up. They attacked those who were behind.”
Surprised, the group of activists “disperses”. They run in every direction. Some have already been hit. They are on the ground, screaming. Among those who were in front, brave young people come to the rescue of their companions. Clashes erupt.

On August 21st , Agathon Rwasa participated in the funeral ceremonies organized by the family of Gregoir Nsavyumwami

Some of those who had fled come back into the fight. Machete blows start. Some among the Inyangamugayo were wounded. Terrorized children and old people run away in the bush. They are pursued by aggressors.
In the meantime, Jacqueline Uwizeye calls the provincial police commissioner and informs him of the attack. The commissioner promises her help as soon as possible. The police will turn up 30 minutes later.

But before the police arrive, the fighting continued. The aggressors were few. “We were more than 260 men,” recalls Uwizeye, who was leading the crowd. In addition, during the clashes, some of the Inyankamugayo (members of CNL party) were able to get sticks from the trees. When the police arrive at the scene, they find that three of the attackers are already in the hands of the victims. The rest have run away. On the Inyankamugayo side, a certain Grégoire Nsavyumwami is killed, seven others are wounded. Joseph Nkurunziza, Marie Kanyambo , Véronique Naburegeya , Jacqueline Minani , Nicodème Miburo , Salomon Ruribikiye and Eric Manirambona were seriously injured.

The three young arrested aggressors (Jean Minani, Mariyamungu and Innocent) are all members of the youth wing of the ruling party CNDD-FDD. They live in different localities of Rugari area.
Jacqueline Uwimana says that anger was at its height. “But we did not avenge ourselves on them. It would have been a bitter failure on our side,” she says.

They were handed over to the police, while the 7 wounded were taken to Muyinga Hospital for treatment. The 8th wounded was found unconscious in the bush on Monday morning. He was brought to Gatongati Health Center.

For Joseph Nkurunziza, one of the victims, the attack was previously prepared. He says that from Giteranyi, the Imbonerakure had tried to block them for long hours, just to identify them and to hunt them down on their way back.

Was the attack prepared long before? Iwacu was able to meet a young man who calls himself the Imbonerakure . His testimony refers to meetings he says he participated in. The meetings aimed at mistreating the Inyankamugayo who would have gone to the opening ceremonies of the provincial office. Iwacu went to Nyamarumba, his native hill.


According to him, meetings were organized on all hills before the opening of the CNL provincial office. “I attended several meetings. At Cibare, the meeting was chaired by the Imbonerakure chiefs of the locality named Witonze, Back and Etienne Budida, the chairman of the provincial committee of wise people from Nyamarumba. The situation was the same everywhere: prevent the Inyankamugayo from attending ceremonies”. According to this young Imbonerakure, they were ordered to inform all representatives on all hills. “The ruling party officials told us that those who will take part in those ceremonies shall be killed. According to them, this is the only way to stop the Injavyi (troublemakers) who want to dethrone them from power.

According to our witness, Shabani Nimubona, the Imbonerakure chief in Muyinga province organized meetings in all areas of Muyinga commune. “The local administrative officials and the Imbonerakure were invited to those meetings. They had an order to intercept CNL members who were going to participate in the festivities. On Sunday, it was planned that all roads leading to Muyinga city be blocked”. Threats have been carried out against the Inyankamugayo to discourage them, he says. “For example in Nyamarumba area, the Imbonerakure were ordered to spy the real or supposed members of CNL party during the night”.

And the D day came

“We were given instructions to compile lists of all militants from Muyinga who were present at the ceremonies”. According to him, on each hill, the Imbonerakure were appointed to follow the ceremonies and draw up the lists. “When we arrived, some CNL members had already returned. We were afraid to enter because there was a big crowd and many people knew us. We also had threatened them back on the hills. Etienne Budida, Mukono, a bodyguard of Shabani Nimubona, Gasongo from Kiremba and several Imbonerakure were present. As agreed in various meetings, we drew up lists. Some Inyankamugayo turned back after recognizing us”.

Around 7p.m., the vehicles that were to bring back the militants of Giteranyi commune were waiting for passengers, say our source. “My friends threatened the drivers that they would burn their cars. The car owners left without asking their remaining money. CNL militants stayed inside the party’s office”. According to him, they had the order to beat up those who were inside the office. “I saw an Inyankamugayo beaten by the Imbonerakure near Hotel 108. We wanted to get him into a car of Shabani Nimubona. He managed to escape and went back to the party’s office”.

Afterwards, CNL militants of Giteranyi went on foot, says the young man. Our source admits not knowing what happened in Rugari (the locality where the ambush was set up) because he stayed at the province center. However, he says that Shabani Nimubona, Mukono, Gasongo and other Imbonerakure continued to move around the pubs until 1a.m. waiting to hunt down CNL members. “Some CNL members did not sleep at home. They were tracked up to their residencies”.


Térence Manirambona: “Such acts cause fear”

“I hope the truth will be known after investigations into what happened in Rugari,” said Térence Manirambona, CNL party spokesman. He asks the militants of his party to remain calm “despite provocative acts which prevail these days”. He calls on the Inyankamugayo to report all aggressive acts to the administration and police so that they do not say they did not know. “Even though the answer comes late or never comes”.

Mr. Manirambona asks militants of other political parties to understand that the Burundian Constitution guarantees the existence of many political parties and that they should respect each other. “There is no enemy party in Burundi. We are all working to foster development for our country and our fellow citizens”. That is why our ideas are publicly shared so that Burundians can choose freely on the election day, he adds.

Aline Manirabarusha: “I cannot confirm that they are the Imbonerakure”

“They ran into an ambush. This has nothing to do with political parties,” said the governor of Muyinga province. “At 7 p.m., they were still celebrating. They could not find cars for their transportation. I do not know the problem they had with the owners of vehicles which took them there”. Mrs. Manirabarusha indicates that she could not accept that people sleep in a party’s office, as an administrative official.

The Muyinga province governor deplores what happened to CNL militants. “It is too bad, but it’s their own mistake. Firstly, the time until (6 p.m.) for activities of political parties was exceeded. Second, more than 100 people could not go 60 km on foot and at 11p.m.,” she says.

Aline Manirabarusha calls on Muyinga population to guarantee security and to join mixed security committees. “Some think it’s reserved for a single political party whereas it’s for everyone”.

Jérôme Ntibibogora: “They are criminals”

Jérôme Ntibibogora

The provincial police commissioner in Muyinga rejects the accusation of having dispersed CNL militants. Jérôme Ntibibogora says they have been advised to look for hotels. “I reminded them that advanced hours are reserved for police patrols”. He says CNL representative in Muyinga promised to handle the situation, a promise he did not fulfill.

According to him, investigations into Rugari attack are under way. “We have already arrested three of the criminals”. For him, those who commit such acts are “criminals”. “We do not consider their political identity at first”.

Regarding the attack, the police officer said he had interrogated the Imbonerakure provincial representatives in Muyinga about their responsibility. “They told me that they are not behind the crime”. However, the investigations are going on, he added. “If the defendants admit having received the order from one of them, we will arrest him/her”.

Shabani Nimubona: “They should stop confusing matters”

The Imbonerakure chief in Muyinga province refutes all charges. “No Imbonerakure is involved in this matter”. Mr. Nimubona says the youth of the ruling party have no problem with other political parties. “I had their invitation. No one can accuse the Imbonerakure of things that happened at 00:43 a.m.”
On the question of know if the arrested people are the Imbonerakure, Mr. Nimubona beats around the bush. “Let justice conduct investigations”. Regarding the meetings he might have organized to prevent CNL members from attending the ceremonies, the Imbonerakure representative indicates that he was preparing for the Imbonerakure Day at that time. “We cannot prevent them because the party is legally known. The administration, police and CNDD-FDD party all wanted the ceremony to go well”.

Story originally written in French by Fabrice Manirakiza and Edouard Nkurunziza

Translated into English by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana