Rwandans ‘buy’ freedom from Congolese officials

Two Rwandans, who are part of a group that was recently arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) town of Goma, have paid a big ransom to Congolese officials in order to secure their freedom, The New Times has learnt.

Two Rwandans, who are part of a group that was recently arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) town of Goma, have paid a big ransom to Congolese officials in order to secure their freedom, The New Times has learnt.

Two residents of Gisenyi town in Rubavu District, Emanuel Rutayisire, 50, and another identified only as Nyirasafari paid $1500 and $250 respectively to get their freedom.

Rutayisire who was arrested on September 15, was released on Thursday October 2.

An official of Rubavu Immigration Office who preferred anonymity confirmed that the duo was released after paying the said ransom to the Congolese Prosecutor General.

“I have met Rutayisire and he said the money was raised by his friends and given to the Congolese Prosecutor General in Goma. But of course the bounty is shared with other security officials,” the source said on phone yesterday.

This brings the number to three of Rwandans reported to have been asked by Congolese authorities to pay a ransom to secure their freedom.

The first one was Valence Bigirimana, of Rusizi District in Western Rwanda who allegedly secured his freedom at a price of $500 in ransom after being arrested in the Congolese town of Bukavu.

The official said that in the wake of the tense situation, they have warned Gisenyi residents against using porous borders to cross to Congo.

According to the source, the victims are normally captured on the Congolese borders of Virunga and Katindo where there are no UN forces on patrol.

Regarding the fate of other Rwandans still detained in Congo, the official said that they are still trying their best to secure their freedom.

The New Times recently reported that 12 Rwandans were arrested in Goma and by last week they were still in Congolese detention facilities.

Meanwhile, talking to The New Times, Rutayisire said that he managed to notify his friends by telephone on the day of his arrest, who raised the money.

“I was crossing to Goma after elections at about 2 p.m. on September 15 because it’s where I work. They (Congolese soldiers) first examined my finger; on seeing the ink that showed that I had voted, they arrested me saying I was (General Laurent) Nkunda’s spy,” he narrated.

He said they were heavily mistreated at the detention centre at the Central Prison in Goma.

 “They stripped us and we were required to pay $10 to get access to any visitors for a period of 3 minutes,” Rutayisire said.

“They demanded $2500 but I kept paying in instalments until we raised $1500 then they accepted to release me,” he added.

Rutayisire disclosed that the Congolese have started releasing other people on payment of $250 or $300, and that two women have since been released. However, we could not independently confirm this.

Rutayisire, who deals in precious stones in DRC, appealed to the government to swiftly broker the release of other Rwandans still detained in Congo, saying that anything could happen because the captors had even threatened to kill them.

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