By The Eastafrican
Posted Friday, October 10 2014 at 18:24
- While civil society and human rights activists in Burundi have been proactive in pushing their government to probe the matter, their Rwandan counterparts had remained mum.
- 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 on the lake claiming to have seen more than 40.
Human rights groups in Rwanda have broken their silence on the mystery of the bodies found stuffed in sacks in July and August in Lake Rweru which is shared with Burundi.
The rights groups are now calling on Kigali and Bujumbura governments to investigate the circumstances that led to the deaths.
While civil society and human rights activists in Burundi have been proactive in pushing their government to probe the matter, their Rwandan counterparts had remained mum.
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.
Jean Leonard Sekanyange, the chairperson of CLADHO said that his organisation went on a fact-finding mission to 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 and Jarama sectors 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,” Sekanyange said.
“Majority of those we interviewed said that they heard the news on radio but did not see the bodies. We are now calling on the governments of Burundi and Rwanda as well as the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) to look into the matter,” he added.
The CEPGL brings together Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
CLADHO further says Rwandan and Burundian civil societies need to have a joint task force to investigate and inform 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 on the lake claiming to have seen more than 40.
“The media has 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,” said Sekanyange.
“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 stories on the bodies have affected relations between the two countries, further observing that citizens on the Rwandan side say that River Akagera 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, nor visited the site where the four bodies were buried.