26 April 2017

Burundi: Four Burundian Hostages Released After Over Two Weeks in Congo

Four victims of kidnapping have been released after 17 days of detention in the DR Congo. Their kidnappers claimed they were rebels. One of the four hostages says they don't know how their release was negotiated.

Four Burundian hostages have been freed by their kidnappers who kept them in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for more than two weeks.

One of the hostages Mathias Mujuriro interviewed by Iwacu after their release, says, after their kidnapping from a bus in Gatumba near the border with DR Congo in the evening of 9 April, they were taken deep into to the neighbouring country.

"We walked from 9 pm to 9h30 am [of the following day]", he says.

Mujuriro was kidnapped along with Pierre Butoyi from the central province of Muramvya, Father Ntahondereye Adolphe from the rural district of Kabezi in Bujumbura province, and Ramadhan Barakamfitiye from Buyenzi area in Bujumbura city.

Mujuriro says the kidnappers fed them and did not torture them. However, they blindfolded them and bound their arms all the time they spent there. He and the priest managed to bring the hoods they were blindfolded with.

At their release, their feet were swollen and bruised because the kidnappers took their shoes and made them walk barefoot all the time. The priest could not walk; they carried him all the times they moved.

The kidnappers took money and everything else the hostages had. The priest was, however, given his phone back when they were released.

Butoyi was the youngest. The others were elderly. The kidnappers made him carry a sack of rice in the hills of the DR Congo. They claimed they were rebels. They beat him after he refused their proposal to join them.

Mujuriro says the kidnappers accused him and the priest of working with the ruling party's youth wing Imbonerakure. He was reserved when asked for details about the kidnappers. "I was blindfolded for all the 17 days I spent with them. I didn't see anything. I couldn't recognize anyone", he says.

Kidnapped for ransom?

He confirms reports that the kidnappers asked for ransom. "They threatened to kill us if we didn't give them money", says Mujuriro. "So we informed our families. It would have been like suicide if we had died [for not paying the ransom].

He says he and the other hostages didn't know how their release was negotiated afterwards. "We just heard [on Monday] they would free us yesterday", he says. "I am thankful to God and those who worked for our release".

"We left where we were held at 4 pm [on Monday] and reached the border where the kidnappers left us at 1a.m.".

Mujuriro and his friends were then found by Burundian troops near the border. Pierre Nkurikiye, Spokesman for the

Police, says they were interrogated and then allowed to go back to their families.

Mathieu Sake, a human rights activist who went to see the hostages while they were still held at the army camp, says the four hostages and others who suffer similar fate, are victims of the political crisis that started in 2015.

He says politicians who have things to demand shouldn't victimize the population.

Sake, the Chairman of ACPDH (a human rights organisation) calls on security forces to be very watchful because "people near the border with DR Congo are always worried something bad like being kidnapped might happen to them anytime".

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