Rweza / Muyira : Escalation in arrests of CNL party members

There is a wave of arrests in this locality after the assassination attempt of the Muyira zone chief in Kanyosha commune of Bujumbura province, on the night of Friday 25 October. The National Congress for Liberty (CNL) denounces a manhunt towards its activists.

In Rweza, where Gédéon Mpitabavuma lived, CNL members are gripped with fear.

In the small village of Rweza, from the top of Kavumu hill, not far from the monument of Unity, there is nothing unusual in this part of the south-east of the economic capital Bujumbura. Some moms with babies on the back are cultivating the fields in the valley. With small baskets on the heads, others quickly go to prepare food. Their children will soon be coming home from school. In classrooms, students follow their lessons, indifferent…

Everything seems normal. And yet, another sad reality is hidden in most of these houses. The population lives in a fear and is furious. “Several people are being arrested on our hill and even on other hills of Kanyosha commune,” says a mother returning from the field.
People are filled with fear in this locality as some of them are spying. Sources speak of “manhunt “. We ask questions. Some look at us suspiciously and continue their way. Questions arise: “Who are you?” We explain to them that we are journalists of Iwacu Newspaper. Then, they start talking to us freely and confidently.

“Since our zone chief got shot, we live in fear. Arrests are still expected. That’s why we were suspicious, “says a fifty-year old man living in this locality.”Since Friday night, a certain category of people are being arrested. Some have even been thrown in the central prison of Mpimba,” adds another woman met in the field in Kavumu locality.
She is surprised by an unprecedented hunt. “Even CNL party leaders living in remote communities are arrested.”

The population in Rweza is gripped with fear. When adults see unknown people, they go back to their homes. Children guide us to the home of the Muyira zone chief, Gédéon Mpitabavuma.
The latter was nearly killed last Friday a few meters from his home. He is still in the hospital. His wife, Valérie Ndayisenga, is in the kitchen. She is preparing lunch. She is traumatized by this event. “I do not even want to think about it. The whole family is scared. Criminals can come back to accomplish their mission,” she says.

She recounts what happened on Friday, October 25: “We were in the house when we heard an explosion around 7 p.m. Afterwards, I heard my husband shout: I have been shot.” The whole family rushed to see what was going on. “We met people running around, shouting: “Baradukwegeye” (They get us into trouble).

Afterwards, the arrests follow…

For some inhabitants of Rweza, Gédéon Mpitabavuma was shot by his co-partisans.

At 8 p.m., the police arrived. “They surrounded the whole locality. Accompanied by the Imbonerakure (youth of the ruling party), they started searches in the households. Surprisingly, it was the people from CNL party who were targeted. ”

About fifteen people got arrested. “They started arresting Adrienne and her husband and their son Golden Gate Arakaza. It was the Imbonerakure who pointed the finger at people to be arrested. Nearly fifteen people were arrested “.

What astonishes the inhabitants of Rweza is the lapse of time between the assassination attempt and the arrests. “Why are only targeted people from the same political party and without arrest warrant?” people wonder. “Normally the investigations should concern everyone.”
The next day, several activists of CNL party were also arrested. “Party officials were targeted. Even the party leader at the commune level is in Mpimba.” Those who were not apprehended fled the area. “Arrests are still expected. Many of our activists live in hiding. There are even rumors of possible arrests within the political party management at the national level. “Today, the list of arrested CNL activists is growing.

“A probable fabrication”

In view of the selective arrests in progress, the inhabitants of Rweza are worried. They fear a fabrication aimed at silencing CNL activists, especially since they still remember another ” fabrication scenario ” in their locality, two years ago…

According to some testimonies, in 2017, two young Imbonerakure from Rweza were murdered outside the home of Thierry Nkurunziza, the FNL party provincial representative in Bujumbura. Subsequently, the latter was arrested and then imprisoned with a certain Kigoma, who was also popular at the time in this party of Agathon Rwasa. Both of them are still incarcerated in Mpimba.

Didace Nzambimana: “Why is only a certain category of people targeted?”

According to these inhabitants, the assassins turned out to be Imbonerakure. “They had accomplished a mission given by the zone chief who wanted to eliminate one of them, his competitor as zone chief at that time,” said the residents, adding that the killers were arrested and got released later on.

For them, this assassination attempt could be from the victim’s group, hostile to Agathon Rwasa followers. “One of them would have staged a coup to achieve his goals, namely the hunt for CNL party members in Kanyosha.” Because, there was no dispute between Gédéon and the CNL party followers. “It’s very hard to imagine that his attackers would have come from this party.”

Moreover, given the atmosphere that prevailed in recent days in Rweza, the assumption of a crime committed by his co-partisans is more likely. “The attack would have been prepared a little before,” said a young man of Rweza who said he had seen a strange and disturbing movement of people since Wednesday.

According to this inhabitant, B. and D., two young Imbonerakure of Kibuye, had been on the watch since Wednesday, October 23, at the entrance of Rweza, on Kavumu side. “They showed up there in the evening to watch people’s comings and goings.” According to him, it was unusual and suspicious. “Maybe they wanted to see some people who were targeted and find the right moment to execute their plan.” I had already suspected something. I was not very much surprised when I heard the bad news on Friday, he adds.

70 CNL party activists imprisoned since its approval

Didace Nzambimana, head of the CNL party in Bujumbura province, does not understand this persecution against his party’s activists. “The investigations should concern everyone. Why is only a certain category of people targeted?

Moreover, he does not understand how people are arrested throughout the commune when this assassination attempt took place in Rweza. This official deplores what happened. “We do not want our province to be a stronghold of criminals, but justice must do its job properly.”
He asks the CNL militants to remain calm and to always respect the authorities. “We should not be afraid because of that. Politics is like that »

Since the approval of CNL party, more than 70 activists from Bujumbura province are incarcerated in the central prison of Mpimba. “They joined 84 others who were already imprisoned before our approval,” he says.

“Even in case of a family dispute, the neighbors intervene and question the parties in dispute”. This is the reaction of Jean Berchmans Munzerere, administrator of Kanyosha commune, to the arrests in progress.

For him, investigations must be conducted on this assassination attempt. This administrative official says he does not know whether the alleged criminals are activists of a single party. “Everyone must be interrogated, justify themselves before justice. The criminal has no other identity than that of a criminal “.

For him, criminals must not hide behind their political or religious affiliation. “They are prosecuted individually, as Philippe, André, Berchmans … not on the basis of their political parties”.

Regarding the suspicions about that fabrication, Jean Berchmans Munzerere argues that they would be unfounded. Because in 2017, there were arrests and, at the end of investigations, some were released. “Every time a crime is committed where there are people, people must necessarily be arrested for investigations,” he says, adding: “If there are people who were not at the scene of the crime among the detainees, it is because they are mentioned by those who were arrested before”.
Contacted, the prosecutor of Bujumbura province did not want to answer the questions that Iwacu journalists asked.

Story written by Edouard Nkurunziza and Fabrice Manirakiza.

Translated into English by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana