An extended family in Ruhango district, Southern Rwanda, is grieving for a father of four with a grandchild, who was clobbered and left for dead by a powerful local businessman. Tied up and blindfolded, the victim was tortured – and died more than a month later.
On February 28, Nzayisenga John was picked by two men from a forest located in Buhoro Cell, Ruhango sector, Ruhango district. The two men were Simon Majyambere, a local businessman and also owner of the said forest. The other was Nyandwi Innocent.
Victim Nzayisenga, carrying the wood he had been cutting from the forest, was taken to the home of businessman Majyambere. There, he was locked in a room, tied up, blindfolded, and the torture began.
After several hours, Nzayisenga was set free. He managed to reach his village. For the days that followed, Nzayisenga’s condition began deteriorating, according to his wife Uwimbabazi Irene. He sought help from community health worker Mutiganda Eliazal who checked for malaria, which was negative.
The health worker Mutiganda told us in interview: “I noticed Nzayisenga had swellings on his head and the feet were also swollen. He told me he had been tortured by people who found him in their forest. I advised him to go to health center but he said he had no health insurance. The next time I heard about Nzayisenga was just after he died and RIB also investigated his case.”
From the time of his ordeal, Nzayisenga never left home. Days before breathing his last, Nzayisenga summoned his wife together with all his four children. He narrated to them what had happened to him, from point when the businessman Majyambere and accomplice rounded him, his torture and release.
The wife said in interview that Nzayisenga told her: “I’m dying from having been clobbered with sticks by Majyambere and Nyandwi. They put a cloth in my mouth so nobody could hear my screams.”
Nzayisenga died on April 12, about a month-and-half after the torture date. The wife informed other relatives who were very unhappy. They immediately reported the case to the Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB) office in Ruhango district. Gaspard Musangirumutima, the District Chief Investigator (DCI), visited the site. He was with two other colleagues.
According to the family and neighbors, the DCI Musangirumutima directed the family to “dress up the body” as they awaited for ambulance to take it to hospital for autopsy. The ambulance never came.
Before leaving the village, the DCI Musangirumutima together with village head Uzabakiriho Feleciane, went to home of the suspect, businessman Majyambere. Here, the family believed, it was part of the investigation.
The next morning, the village head returned to the family telling them the body needs to be buried immediately as it was seriously decomposing. The village head promised them help to cover funeral costs. The family was also given a paper to sign declaring that after being given the help, they wouldn’t follow up the case.
In separate interviews, businessman Majyambere and his alleged accomplice Nyandwi gave completely different versions of what happened to their alleged victim Nzayisenga.
Majyambere says when he heard someone was cutting wood from his forest, he sent Nyandwi to bring the suspect to his home. But that he did not participate in the journey. Nyandwi for his part said he picked Nzayisenga from the forest, but handed the suspect to Majyambere without reaching the businessman’s home.
When the funeral was complete, and without the promised financial help, the victim’s wife Uwimbabazi went to RIB where she met the DCI Musangirumutima Gaspard. The wife of the deceased wanted to inquire how far the investigation had reached.
She told us: “Gaspard touched me on the shoulder and said to me ‘Mada iwawe narahageze n’abana ufite narababonye, ubundi wemera ko abagabo barutanwa? Jyenda ucire abana bawe inshuro ubundi urekere aho’….”
What the RIB officer told this woman can be loosely translated as ‘Madam, I remember coming to your home and know your children. Are you aware some men are more equal than others? Go take care of your children and leave the rest”.
By Jean Bosco MBONYUMUGENZI and Aimable UWIZEYIMANA
This story produced in collaboration with RADIO HUGUKA, a community broadcaster based in Muhanga district