By Millicent Zighe
Burundi justice system is once again on the spot after the wrongful conviction of a woman and her two-year old son.
Aline Ndikumana’s predicament began when members of the security service and the Imbonerakure-the youth group allied to the ruling party CNDD-FDD raided her home in Musenyi locality in Nyabiraba Commune of Bujumbura Rural province. They conducted a thorough search which according to witnesses yielded nothing incriminating. It is alleged police then planted evidence including four grenades and 30 cartridges of bullets on the trousers of Aline’s husband Théogene Ndikumana, who happens to be the communal secretary of the opposition party National Congress for Liberty (CNL).
“I entered the house with the police. We were afraid that people with bad intentions would throw weapons into the house. They found nothing,” a neighbor to the family told Iwacu news outlet. “I was outside. I heard Ndoricimpa, a local Imbonerakure, calling the police to show them where to search. The day before, there was nothing. These are weapons that were put in there overnight. ” another witness added.
Aline was quickly apprehended to the police station together with her two year old son , Junior Nganjiyimana. She was charged with illegal possession of firearms. The prosecutor requested a 10 year jail term but judges sentenced her to two years imprisonment and a fine of BIF 100,000.
“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,” a local from Nyabiraba said.
During an interview with Iwacu, Théogene, now in exile, denied the accusations levelled against his wife and son saying, “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,”
He feels the case is politically motivated and that he was the main target. Ndikumana narrowly escaped death after two members of the ruling party attacked him at his home on June 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 Ndikumana.
“If we had not intervened, Théogène and his family would have been killed,” added a neighbor.
Ever since he assumed office, witnesses revealed that Ndikumana had been receiving threats from the local administrator of Nyabiraba commune, Ferdinand Simbananiye, a claim he refuted.
“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. 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? ” he lamented.
A human rights activist who wished to remain anonymous, blasted Burundi’s justice system calling it a manipulation tool used by the ruling regime to silence dissent. She also asked the Justice Minister to immediately set free Aline and her son.
“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. 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”.
Burundi authorities have been accused of waging a war of intimidation and torture against real or perceived opponents. Over a thousand members of CNL have been arrested since the official launch of the party’s activities in 2019. The United Nations has warned that human rights violations may increase as the country prepares to hold elections in May.