Burundi: Jean Bigirimana ‘Is Not On Holidays’!

Photo: Iwacu

Jean Bigirimana


On 22 July 2017, day after day, it will be a year without our colleague … A confused feeling invades us. Commemorating a year of “disappearance”? But, apart from his absence of 365 days, we have no concrete evidence to conclude his death. It’s always this atrocious doubt. Desperate, one clings to the smallest, the most doubtful hope.

Until this day, his eldest son always tells Godeberthe, her mother, not to forget to put aside “the meal of dad who left to work”. In his childhood, in his dreams, surely the little one sees dad come in, lift him in his arms as he used to do…

We have long since lost the childish candor, but we cannot say “Jean Bigirimana is dead.” Words do not go out.

With the disappearance of Jean Bigirimana, we experienced all the reactions; the indifference of the authorities and cynicism like those unworthy words of Jean de Dieu Mutabazi, a “politician” who wrote in an unworthy tweet that “Jean Bigirimana is on holidays with his uncle.”

Fortunately, there were, however, reactions of compassion and support. It is also thanks to the information of the population of Bugarama zone, where our colleague was last seen, that we were able to search the valley and discover two dead bodies from the Maragarazi River. One was weighted with stone. The other victim was beheaded. Strongly damaged by the “stay” in water, the bodies were unrecognizable.

We had hoped for a DNA test of the remains. At the time we submitted a request via the National Commission for Human Rights (CNIDH). However, the authorities decided to bury the two bodies. Probably, a DNA test would have eliminated the doubt.

But Jean is not on holidays. At least, this is certain. Hard worker, father of a young family, he would not have allowed himself the luxury of 365 days on holidays.

So, once again, yesterday as today, as we will do again tomorrow, we endlessly ask the question: “Where is Jean? “

In our culture, we cry when we are not sure of the fate of our nearer unhappiness, it is said: “Agasema”. We would like to know the truth so that we finally let our tears flow, our anger too long contained, go out.

Tell us, you who took Jean away because you know. We know you know. As for us, we did what we had to do. We handed over all the factual elements of our investigation to the police and justice, such as the cell phone number that called the editorial office from Bugarama to inform us that the journalist “has just been arrested in the afternoon

No, Jean did not “disappear” in Bugarama zone. There were witnesses. But we have not sought the truth. We have filed a complaint to the Burundian judiciary, so far without any follow-up.

Iwacu even brought the case to the attention of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (GTDFI) in August 2016.

We believe that those who “took Jean away,” I dare not write, “who killed Jean” count on time and forgetfulness.

Like this other politician, also cynical (they are legion here), who told us to “give up” because “agapfuye kabazwa ivu” which would be translated more or less as “the dead belong to the graves.” But like the poet Birago Diop, I say that “the dead have never left “

No, Jean “has not been on holidays for 365 days. Shame on you, “politicians” whose ethics and compassion have been on holidays for a long time.

No, Jean is still here.

Jean lives on. Through his two children and the love that always carries his wife to him. His children will be proud to bear his name.

Jean lives on. Through our commitment to continue the duty that was his: to inform.

Jean lives on. Through our refusal to shut up, to forget.

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