Grief engulfed Gahunda village in Burera District after residents learnt that one of their own, a 35-year-old father of four, had been killed by a group of villagers in Uganda before he was hurriedly buried by the police in the neighbouring country.
News of Félicien Mbonabakeka’s cold blood murder was broken to his family by another Rwandan, Emmanuel Nsabimana, who escaped what he described as a violent attacks against Rwandan nationals by a gang in Uganda’s south-western district of Kisoro.
Mbonabakeka, who was living in Gakori, Kisoro where he worked as a casual labourer for eight years and regularly travelled back home to Burera in Rwanda where his family lives, was killed on January 31, 2019, Nsabimana said.
Burera and Kisoro share a common border.
According to Nsabimana, who was the deceased’s neighbour in Kisoro, Mbonabakeka was murdered by a gang of youth “who are hunting” Rwandan nationals on Ugandan territory.
Nsabimana returned to Rwanda on Saturday evening.
He said that Mbonabakeka was hacked to death by machete-wielding assailants as raised his voice (from his home) calling for help for a neighbour, another Rwandan named Denys Bayavuge, whose home had been attacked by the mobsters.
“He was killed trying to save the life of another Rwandan neighbour who was in danger as the gang were breaking into his house,” he told The New Times.
On hearing Mbonabakeka, the assailants left Bayavuge’s home and instead attacked his.
After killing him with machetes and other rudimentary weapons, Nsabimana said, the assailants fled the scene carrying his body with them.
Nsabimana said he risked his life and tracked the assailants who demanded millions of Ugandan Shillings in exchange for the corpse, he said.
“Since I could not raise the money, I informed his family back in Rwanda and before they could get back to me his landlord intervened and gave money to the police so as to have his body handed over to us,” noted Nsabimana.
However, the police hurriedly buried Mbonabakeka in secrecy, he said, adding that none of his relatives or friends were present.
When this reporter met his grieving widow, Béatrice Mukamazera, at their family home she was still struggling to come to terms with the loss of her husband.
“We are broken and speechless, how could they not even allow us a chance to bury him?” she said, sobbing.
She wondered how she will now raise their four children on her own, and blamed the Ugandan government for the tragedy.
Simon Hitimana, the father to the deceased, wondered why the Ugandan government could not allow the deceased’s loved ones to collect his body and accord him decent burial.
“It’s an unbearable pain to learn that your child was murdered in cold blood and you were denied a chance to say goodbye to him and lay him to rest,” he lamented.
Early last year, Rwanda issued a travel advisory to Uganda after it accused Kampala of arbitrarily arresting its citizens and torturing them, supporting anti-Kigali armed groups and committing economic sabotage against Rwanda.
Uganda’s links with armed groups seeking to destabilise Rwanda have particularly been detailed by militia combatants mainly captured by DR Congo security forces, while scores of Rwandan nationals who have been released over the last one year have told chilling stories of arbitrary arrests and torture at the hands of Uganda’s security organs.
One of the most high-profile arrests of militia leaders with links to Uganda is that of former FDLR spokesperson and intelligence chief, Ignace Nkaka and Jean-Pierre Nsekanabo, respectively, in DR Congo on their way from a meeting in Kampala with another Rwandan armed group, RNC, in the presence of Uganda’s state minister for regional cooperation Philemon Mateke.
FDLR is an offshoot of extremist groups largely blamed for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda which claimed the lives of over a million people, while RNC is linked to grenade attacks in different parts of Rwanda between 2010 and 2014 in which at least 17 people lost their lives and another 400 sustained injuries.
Talks between the two countries, facilitated by Angola and DR Congo, have so far bore no fruit as Kampala continued to reject the accusations – before Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said in his End-of-Year message that his government would do everything possible to normalise ties with Rwanda.
Addressing the media last week, the Northern Province Governor Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi said that at least 73 Rwandans who hail from the province were still held incommunicado in Uganda.
Forty-four of them are from Burera District, he said.