Mystery over bodies found in Lake Rweru - Daily Nation

Rwanda rights groups want mystery of bodies found in Lake Rweru solved

Friday October 10 2014

Rwandan farmers stand along the River Kagera,

Rwandan farmers stand along the River Kagera, where fishermen saw floating corpses in sacks on the glittering waters of Lake Rweru on the border between Rwanda and Burundi. Rwandan rights groups now want the mystery about the bodies solved. AFP PHOTO | ESDRAS NDIKUMANA 

By EDMUND KAGIRE
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Human rights groups in Rwanda want the mystery surrounding dead bodies found stuffed in sacks in Lake Rweru resolved.

The lake is shared by both Rwanda and Burundi.

The bodies were found in July and August 2014.

The rights groups have now called on the governments of both countries to conduct detailed investigations into the circumstances that led to the deaths.

While civil society and human rights groups in Burundi have been proactive in pushing their government to investigate the case of the floating bodies, the Rwandan civil society remained silent.

This week, however, the Rwandan Collective of Leagues and Associations for the Defense of Human Rights (CLADHO) made an appeal to the two governments to work together and get to the root of the matter.

NO EVIDENCE

Jean Leonard Sekanyange, the chairperson of CLADHO said that his organisation had conducted a fact-finding mission in the villages on the Rwandan side of the lake to ascertain the source of the floating bodies but found no evidence to confirm that they originated from Rwanda.

“We talked to the residents of Rweru Sector in Ngoma District and Jarama Sector in Ngoma District which border the lake, but they said they did not see the bodies which were found on the Burundian side. It is now becoming increasingly difficult to know where the bodies came from.

“Many of those we interviewed said that they heard the news on radio but did not see the bodies. We are now asking the governments of Burundi and Rwanda as well as the Great Lakes Economic Community (CEPGL) to look into the matter,” said Mr Sekanyange.

CEPGL brings together Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

JOINT TASK FORCE

CLADHO further says Rwandan and Burundian civil societies need to have a joint task force to investigate and inform the people of the two countries what happened.

There have been conflicting reports on the number of bodies found in the lake, with the government of Burundi acknowledging only four bodies while fishermen claim to have seen more than 40.

“The media have reported over 40 bodies, but we talked to fishermen on the Rwandan side and they told us they did not see any bodies.

“However, they say that their colleagues in Burundi told them that four bodies were removed.

“We need to know the exact number of bodies found in the lake. We also need to know the truth behind these bodies so that this confusion can come to an end once and for all. People were killed and we condemn acts of this nature,” Sekanyange further said.

The rights group said that media reports about the bodies have affected relations between the two countries, further observing that citizens on the Rwandan side say that River Kagera rarely drains into Lake Rweru, making it less likely that the bodies could have come from Rwanda.

However CLADHO said it neither interviewed people on the Burundian side of the lake nor visited the scene where the four bodies were buried.

NO ONE MISSING

Rwandans interviewed also claimed that no people have been reported missing. It had earlier been reported that some of the bodies were found with Rwandan documents.

Two weeks ago, the United States expressed concern about the discovery of the bodies in the lake and called on the governments of Rwanda and Burundi to conduct a “prompt” investigation into the matter.

The call by the US government came days after unidentified people appeared at the site where the bodies were buried and attempted to exhume them at night.

US spokesperson Jen Psaki said that the US was deeply concerned by the incidents reported in July and August 2014, adding that the victims deserved to be identified, their families informed and those responsible brought to justice.

The FBI announced last week that it would take up the case.