Burundi Refuses to Release body Of Rwandan ex-minister Bihozagara
Burundi has vehemently refused to release the body of the deceased former Rwandan Ambassador Jacques Bihozahara until his family signs statement exonerating the Burundi government.
The family has been told that he died of natural causes, and they have to sign a document to that effect. Up until they sign the said statement, which essentially removes all responsibility for Bihozagaraâ€™s death on Burundi, the body will not leave the country.
News of the death of the former Rwandan diplomat and minister emerged on Wednesday. Reports say he died in Mpimba maximum security prison. No official explanation has been provided by the Burundi government detailing the circumstances surrounding Bihozagaraâ€™s death.
It was announced on the same day that the family of Bihozagara was making arrangements to repatriate the body on Friday. However, by Saturday afternoon, the Burundian authorities had refused to hand it over to family members in Bujumbura.
Sources have confirmed that until the family signs the statement affirming he died of â€œnatural causesâ€, they have to forget the body.
Meanwhile, the government of Rwanda has demanded a full investigation into his death.
“Jacques Bihozagara is one of many Rwandans in Burundi who have died violently or suspiciously in the past several months,” said a spokesperson from Rwanda in a statement. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Rwanda wishes to obtain precise information from Â Burundian authorities on the circumstances of Mr Bihozagara’s death and clarification on the reasons for his detention since last December”
The United States and other governments have also heavily condemned the mysterious death of Bihozagara.
â€œMr. Bihozagaraâ€™s death highlights abiding concerns about inhumane prison conditions in Burundi, as well as persistent credible reports of arbitrary arrests, increased torture, the presence of underground detention facilities, and disappearances of individuals detained by security forces,â€ said a US State Department statement.
Mr Bihozagara had been in prison without conviction since December 2015. He was accused of espionage â€“ in relation to the fall out with Rwanda.
He has for years been operating a wide range of businesses and living between Kigali-Bujumbura. The authorities in Burundi probably believed he must have been spying for the government of Rwanda.
His family had unsuccessfully tried all avenues to have him released. All foreign government officials who visited Burundi have indicated they raised issue of Bihozagara but were only given assurances he was in safe hands.