Political intolerance: Opponents hunted down

In the south, north, east as in the west of the country, cases of aggression against political opponents are increasing. Members of CNL party are the most targeted. Those of FRODEBU and UPRONA parties are also not left behind. Iwacu reporters went to different provinces.

Ngozi province

The banana plantation of the CNL representative was destroyed

The night slowly falls in Runini area of Tangara commune. It’s on Sunday, May 26, at more than sixty kilometers from the provincial capital of Ngozi. It is 6p.m, and it’s getting darker…

At the foot of Runini hill, there is a grassy road lined with coffee fields. It leads to Kiringanire, a sub-hill of Kamira hill. Before reaching the latter, there is a small trading center in Runini…
There are lots of people at that center. Many of them are young men who are quenching their thirst. Apart from a few reckless ones, CNL party members had returned home early. Four of them had been beaten in the night of Thursday, May 23 at the same center.

At the end of the road towards Kiringanire area, we meet François Barunsasako and Dieudonné Maniratanga, two CNL party activists. They were going back home. It is almost 6:30 pm. “We must do everything to avoid clashes with the Imbonerakure (youth of the ruling party CNDD-FDD),” they say. Both of them are in their forties.

They say they learned a lesson in a series of attacks, including that of last Thursday.
François Barunsasako, one of the victims of this day, denounces a “political confrontation”. He will never forget the “provocations”…

The beating up of four CNL party members

According to him, it was around 9p.m. They were numerous in the center of Runini. They were having a drink in different bars. He was having a drink with a certain Epipode, a well-known CNL activist in their locality.

“And suddenly, four young men took me by the arms and laid me on the ground. They were the Imbonerakure from our locality. Among others, there was their representative, Ezéchiel, Ndigiria and Sindahabaye. They immediately asked me why I shared the beer with “ibipinga” (staunch opponents).
As he did not answer, they beat him up. Those who were there could not help.
“Who could intervene? Nobody. In this locality, the Imbonerakure are masters,” explains Barunsasako with sadness on his face.

At a certain moment, three of his CNL friends will try to intervene to defend him but verbally. They are Bernard Gahungu, Zacharie Matata and Marc Harerimana, CNL activists from the same locality.
As a result, the attackers also turned to them. They beat them together. In the meantime, other CNL activists run away. “Around 4a.m, those who beat us up released my fellows after paying a fine varying between BIF5000 and BIF7500”. They took Mr Barunsasako to the Kananira zone jail where he stayed all day on 24 May.

Kiringanire: Fields of the CNL party representative destroyed

The shocking Sunday scene shows young banana trees cut down and bunches of bananas removed from their trunks and thrown on ground…

It is on the side of Kiringanire sub-hill, at the home of Dieudonné Maniratanga, the representative of CNL party in Kananira zone.

This opponent was told about ” the destruction ” of his banana plantation around 2 a.m., on Friday, May 24, by a neighbor. “Seeing this sad spectacle, I realized that the sky has just fallen on me”. Maniratanga had no doubt about those who did it. “I immediately thought of the Imbonerakure.”
The songs sung by these members of the ruling party while running on Friday morning will remove his doubts. “When they arrived in front of my home, they said: the Boat of Rwasa(leader of CNL opposition party) has just sunk”.

But until then, he had not known yet that his rice fields, in the swamp between Kiringanire and Muramba hills, had also been destroyed in the same night. “These concomitant field destructions and the songs confirmed my doubts about those who did it “.

He adds that he has always been subject to their intimidation. He says that he had been beaten three times by the Imbonerakure from the locality where he lives. “I know it. I have no other enemies. It’s these Imbonerakure who have a grudge against me.”

Dieudonné Maniratanga will go to the chief of the locality to ask him to conduct investigations into the acts. The latter will show total indifference.
During a meeting, the zone chief will hold a speech that seems to threaten the victim. “Do not politicize this case. It may be a dispute with your neighbors or other individuals who have something against you”.

These CNL activists deplore the attacks by the Imbonerakure. They ask leaders of the CNDD-FDD party to review the discipline of these youth.

For them, the representatives of the two parties at the national level should meet and discuss this political intolerance especially in this period leading to the 2020 elections.
Questioned, Joël Habogorimana, chief of Kamira area, denies the involvement of any Imbonerakure in the destruction of the fields of Dieudonné Maniratanga. “They are criminals,” he says.”There is nothing political about it,” he adds.

This administrative official claims to have conducted his own investigations but failed to identify the perpetrators of the acts. For him, members of the different political parties have always lived in perfect harmony since the past the two years.

At the level of Tangara commune, Marguérite Mpabonimana, the administrator, says the same thing. She says that there is no political intolerance in her commune. In the case of Runini area, she rejects the complaints. “There, there was no clash. I would have known it. There is nothing happening in my commune that is not reported to me.”

As for the devastation in Kiringanire, Ms. Mpabonimana says that “people politicize what is apolitical. “According to her, accusing the Imbonerakure of involvement in the destruction of those fields hides some evil intentions “because nobody was apprehended to be identified as a member of a political party.” Those people with these incendiary remarks seek to harm others, she says.

Cibitoke province: The opposition and the ruling party members at loggerheads

Members of the opposition political parties and those of the ruling party CNDD-FDD are at loggerheads with one another. This situation which is observed while the 2020 elections are fast approaching worries many people.

Acts of violence largely attributed to the youth affiliated to the ruling party against opposition members are currently reported in several communes of this province in the west of the country.
In Buzirasazi area in the commune of Murwi, at about fifty km from the provincial capital, a septuagenarian named Fabien Bihehero, member of the institutional UPRONA party was stabbed on the chest after several blows of machete at the level of the upper limbs in the night of May 20 leading to May 21.

Mr Bihehero was seriously injured and his health is in very bad conditions although he is currently receiving intensive care in a clinic in Bujumbura, says a local source. The son of the victim, who is also the secretary of Rwagasore party (UPRONA) in the neighboring area of Buhayira accuses the youth of the ruling party of being behind the act.

“All the evidence is there. My father has been repeatedly intimidated for recruiting several members from the ruling party in recent days.” says angrily Patrice Nyabenda, first secretary of UPRONA party. Following the investigations conducted with the judicial police, six people have been arrested and detained in a prison in Buhayira. They are Méchack Ntawuhinyuzimana, Mathias Ndayegamiye, Cyrille Ndayirukiye, Libert Ntirandekura, Enias Nitegeka and Lewis Nduwayo.

In addition, the UPRONA party office was seriously ransacked on the Rushimabarimyi hill, in Ruziba area of Mugina commune during the second half of May. The first secretary of UPRONA party in Cibitoke province who is at the same time the Vice President of the same party at the national level deplores the behavior of the youth of the ruling party.

Etienne Simbakira reminds the party in power that diversity is the bedrock of democracy and all Burundian citizens have the same political rights.

According to a local source, the hunt for supporters of Agathon Rwasa’s new party can be seen throughout the province. Most recently, on May 23rd, 24th and 25th, members of the National Congress for Liberty (CNL) in Mugina and Mabayi communes decided to flee after receiving death threats.
A trustworthy source from Buganda commune says CNL militants are also being hunted down in that commune. Five of them have already fled after they were beaten up by the ruling party youth.

CNDD-FDD party defends itself

Asked, Albert Nsekambabaye, First Secretary of CNDD-FDD party in Cibitoke rejects the charges against the youth of his party. He minimizes the incidents that have already occurred and says that these are mere skirmishes in social and non-political disputes. Mr. Nsekambabaye advises any person who would feel wronged or harmed to go to court.

On the side of the provincial administration, Joseph Iteriteka, Governor of Cibitoke province, calls for appeasement and requests the support of NGOs and other actors working in the field of peaceful conflict resolution and non-violence to organize awareness sessions for all youth without any distinction.

Overall, according to a source close to human rights defenders based in Cibitoke, members of the most targeted opposition political parties are UPRONA, CNL and FRODEBU.

Rumonge province : Tensions in Kizuka

Members of the ruling party intimidated and beat those of CNL party back from the opening of the provincial office. The next day, they wanted to revenge but the police intervened rapidly.

On Sunday, May 26, the National Congress for Liberty (CNL) proceeded to the opening of the provincial office in Rumonge. The communal and hill representatives were invited, including those from Kizuka in Rumonge commune. However when going back from the meeting, they were severely beaten.

Young CNL activists waving the effigy of their party

According to Erasme Muke, representative of this party in Rumonge commune, they were beaten for taking part in this meeting. He said one of the members is being treated at the hospital after being beaten by some young people of the ruling party from the Kizuka area on the way back.

He regretted that those who denounced the barbarity namely the representative of this party in Kizuka area and his deputy were detained in the police cell in Rumonge and that the alleged perpetrators remain free. This communal representative of the CNL party calls for the release of their members and the arrest of the alleged perpetrators, including the owner of Kizuka health center.

However, the police accuse these members of the CNL party of having illegally confined the representative of this health center at his workplace and of having tried to attack the Imbonerakure, what created a situation of tension in this Kizuka zone.

The representative of this party in the province of Rumonge raised some cases that characterized the organization of their meeting notably the lack of access to the stadium, the refusal to beat the drums to enliven the party and some members who were blocked or intimidated en route and who could not have access to the place of ceremonies.

The possible escalation of the situation

Human rights organizations say that in the morning of Monday, May 27, CNL youth nearly clashed with those of the ruling party. They wanted to avenge the attack against their fellow CNL members who were beaten, intimidated, humiliated and threatened but the police intervened swiftly.

They call on leaders of political parties, administrative authorities, the judiciary, police, religious denominations and civil society organizations to hold a meeting aimed at promoting the culture of political tolerance and democratic values.

According to these organizations, if nothing is done immediately to stop this, the situation is likely to remain tense in Kizuka and can get worse.

In his welcoming address, the representative of CNL party in the Imbo-Mirwa region, which includes the provinces of Bubanza, Cibitoke, Bujumbura Mairie, Bujumbura Rural and Rumonge, said that 11 members of this party are illegally imprisoned.

He demanded that those who are unjustly arrested be released because they were arrested for their political convictions and in violation of the law. According to him, the majority was arrested by people who do not have the competence to do so given what the law says. It was during the opening of the office of this party on Sunday, May 26. He asked the members of CNL not to give in to provocation, but to show restraint.

Muyinga Province : A controversial imprisonment

After the clashes in Butihinda, on Sunday, April 20, dozens of opponents from FRODEBU and CNL parties have decided to flee. Among them, Révérien Kwizerimana, president of FRODEBU in Butihinda, returned on May 8, after safety guarantee by administrative officials. Since then, he has been detained at Muyinga Central Prison.

Some of the victims of the Butihinda clashes, which is the origin of the imprisonment of Révérien Kwizerimana

Joseph Nduwimana, vice-president of FRODEBU party in Muyinga province, says how it all went down…
On Sunday, April 20, there were clashes between Imbonerakure and some opponents. Several people got arrested. Others, including Révérien Kwizerimana, chairman of the FRODEBU party in Butihinda commune, took off.

Since Monday, April 21, the hunt for opponents was still ongoing. The Imbonerakure went from household to household.

When they arrived to Kwizerimana’s home, they found he was not there. “They caught his wife before going back.”

Subsequently, on Friday, May 3, Oswald Ntakirutimana, secretary general of FRODEBU party and Oscar Nkezabahizi, member of the party committee at the provincial level in Muyinga, went to meet the governor of Muyinga. The aim was to inform her about the situation of Révérien Kwizerimana. They went back with a promise that Mr. Kwizerimana can return home.

And three days later, on Monday, May 6, the president of FRODEBU party in Muyinga and his deputy informed the administrator of Butihinda commune about the situation of Révérien Kwizerimana. “We talked about his return. The talks went well. And he, too, expressed his wish to see him come back and that it would be better because even others would return.”

They agreed to collaborate for his repatriation to his hometown. “He even promised us that the administrative staff will accompany us on his return.” After he was informed, Révérien Kwizerimana announced that he would return on May 8.

Violation of the guarantees

On that day, Kwizerimana was welcomed in front of the provincial office of Muyinga by Gaspard Ndagijimana and Joseph Nduwimana, president and vice-president of the party in Muyinga province respectively. “We then called the administrator of Butihinda to tell him that Kwizerimana is already in Muyinga. We have even informed him that we have a little help for the family of the late Aloys Ncishubwenge.”

Aline Manirabarusha “I was not aware of his imprisonment.

The administrator promised to get them in touch with Issa Bankuwunguka, Butihinda zone chief.
And the latter was in a meeting organized by the CNDD-FDD party in Muyinga. When he got called, he joined them in front of the provincial office. As the meeting was not over yet, he called the Rukira area chief to explain to him how the operation was going to happen. “We were really reassured.”
Fifteen minutes later, Nduwimana received a call from the administrator. “He asked us if we had already gone.”

The administrator then recommended them to go back with the area chief. “We went to wait for him in front of the provincial office.”

After a few minutes, the group sees a policeman coming with an arrest warrant. “He asked us: who is Révérien Kwizerimana? “He told them that he is summoned. This policeman was accompanied by Saidi Nyamarushwa, the vice-president of CNDD-FDD party in Butihinda commune.
That day, Mr. Kwizerimana spent the night in jail before being transferred to the central prison of Muyinga on May 9. He is accused of undermining the internal security of the state among other charges against him.

Joseph Nduwimana acknowledges that some of those who fled have returned and have not been arrested but adds that they live in fear. He also deplores that none of the Imbonerakure, yet involved in the clashes, has been apprehended so far.

When questioned, Aline Manirabarusha, Governor of Muyinga province, said that she was not aware of this imprisonment. She admitted, however, that she had received a FRODEBU party delegation to discuss the case of Révérien Kwizerimana.

“I did not understand why he fled because he was not a member of the political parties that were involved in Butihinda clashes.” She tells us to ask the justice the reasons for his imprisonment.
Contacted by telephone, the public prosecutor in Muyinga province, laconically said: “I am not aware of this case.”

Translated into English by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana