Two year-old Junior in prison in place of his dad

The imprisonment of Junior Nganjiyimana and his mother Aline Ndikumana has provoked uproar since the past few days. Their friends and relatives say the two were imprisoned in place of Théogene Ndikumana, the head of the family, after a search in which weapons were found. The family denounces a politically-motivated imprisonment.

Théogène Ndikumana has been in exile since the search in his home.

“She doesn’t know anything about politics. It hurts when I see her in prison. It is a gross injustice,” says a close friend of Aline Nduwimana. “We have become strangers to Junior. When I went to see them, he was afraid of me,” says a family member.

Aline Ndikumana was arrested on September 1, 2019. She is the wife of Théogene Ndikumana, communal secretary of the opposition National Congress for Liberty (CNL). She is incarcerated with her two-year-old son, Junior Nganjiyimana. Aline Ndikumana is charged with “illegal possession of firearms”. She was sentenced to 2 years in prison and fined BIF 100,000.

Arrested in place of her husband

During the night of August 31 to September 1, 2019, the police conducted a search operation in the home of Théogène Ndikumana in Musenyi locality in Nyabiraba commune of Bujumbura province. “The police arrived at 2 a.m. They were with the Imbonerakure (young members of the ruling party). They surrounded the house.”

4 grenades and 30 cartridges were “found”. They were wrapped in the clothes of the family’s children and the trousers of Théogène Ndikumana. The latter was not at home. “I was with him at a party. He didn’t come home that evening,” says a resident of Musenyi. The police entered the house of the communal secretary of CNL party, but found nothing. “When we heard the news that the police were searching the house, we ran. I entered the house with the police. We were afraid that people with bad intention would throw weapons into the house. They found nothing,” says a neighbor of the family. “I was outside. I heard Ndoricimpa, a local Imbonerakure, calling the police to show them where to search,” said another neighbor. “The day before, there was nothing. These are weapons that were put in there overnight. ”

Aline Ndikumana got arrested immediately with her two-year old child, Junior Nganjiyimana. In a trial, Aline got sentenced to 2 years. The prosecutor had requested 10 years in prison. “The judges saw that the charges brought against Aline didn’t hold, but they were afraid to release her,” says a relative.

“The judges said that the weapons were found in the plot of Théogène, but it’s wrong. They were found in the plot of his neighbor, Claude Barutwanayo. It’s really incomprehensible,” said an inhabitant of Nyabiraba. “My plot is not enclosed. Someone can come in any way they want,” says Théogene Ndikumana from his place of exile. “The pair of trousers they used to pack these so-called weapons was old and torn up. It was not even washed. I had thrown it away. My children’s clothes were outside because they had been washed,” says Théogène Ndikumana.

Political motives behind all that?

Théogène Ndikumana’s family was attacked on July 23, 2019. “I saw them coming. I recognized Alphonse Nsekakariyo and Alexandre who is the leader of Cndd-Fdd party in Musenyi commune. I was saved by my neighbors. I reported this attack, but nothing was done about it,” said Théogène Ndikumana. “If we had not intervened, Théogène and his family would have been killed,” says a neighbor.

Sources in Nyabiraba commune say the communal secretary of CNL party has been threatened since he took office. “The communal administrator was among those who threatened him the most. He even wanted to have him expelled from the school where he was working,” says a resident of Nyabiraba. “In a meeting, the communal administrator declared that he did not want the CNL party in Nyabiraba”.

Ferdinand Simbananiye: “The husband ran away and the police arrested his wife.”

Ferdinand Simbananiye, administrator of Nyabiraba commune, categorically rejects the accusations: “I am not involved in this case in any way. They were caught with weapons. The husband took off and the police arrested his wife.”

The administrator does not think that it’s other people who brought those weapons. He also denies having wanted to dismiss Théogene from his work. “Is he the only CNL member who is in Burundi? Why did he run away? Why do people hide behind political parties when they are caught while committing a crime? ”

On the issue that the weapons were found in the plot of Théogène’s neighbor, the administrator says “this question should be asked to justice.” Iwacu tried to contact the chairman of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (CNIDH) but to no avail.

A human rights activist expresses her indignation over the imprisonment of Aline Ndikumana and her baby for almost six months. “It is a shame for the Burundian justice. They are in prison only because they are the wife and son of a political opponent whom the police could not arrest.”

For her, this case is another illustration of the manipulation of the Burundian justice for political ends. “I appeal to the Justice Minister Aimée Laurentine Kanyana, who is also a mother like Aline Ndikumana, to put an end to this gross injustice by releasing Aline Ndikumana and her baby”.