Faced with the horrific loss of a loved one, the family of deceased former Rwandan diplomat, Ambassador Jacques Bihozagara, has not only been denied the body, but now fear for their dear life too.
Exclusive information obtained shows officials in the Burundi President’s office, who are handling the matter, have threatened Bihozagara’s family with death. Reason: If they don’t sign papers that he was not killed by Burundi government.
The body will not be released until his family signs a statement which says he died of natural causes – essentially exonerating the Burundi government, according to family members.
Robert Viviand, a son in law to Ambassador Bihozagara, has been the one following up on the case since the arrest of the Rwandan senior citizen in December 2015.
Viviand received death threats after refusing to sign the document provided by Burundi Presidency officials, KT Press has established.
The officials wanted signature from Viviand before the body of his father in law would be released for repatriation to Rwanda.
Viviand, a Canadian national married to Bihozagara’s daughter, was the last person from his family, due to his Canadian nationality, to receive death threats after Bihozagara’s son, who also escaped assassination by the regime.
While in Burundi before his father-in-law was assassinated, Viviand was denied visiting him in Mpimba maximum security prison where he had been held incommunicado for past four months.
Viviand was also denied the right to see the body after death.
Meanwhile, new details emerging are giving a rare picture of the condition Bihozagara was in before his demise. Fellow inmates who had come to visit him have testified that Bihozagara died within minutes after arriving at the prison hospital.
No autopsy has been conducted yet.
Bihozagara, was assassinated on March 30. The Rwanda government has demanded for a full investigation into his death, but Burundi authorities have not made any official communication or provided explanation of any sort.
Bihozagara had been illegally detained and Rwanda demanded Burundian authorities to clarify this sudden death, “which raises many questions”.
Bihozagara served Rwanda as Rehabilitation and Social Integration minister and later as Youth, Sports and Culture minister, in addition to serving as ambassador of Rwanda to France and Belgium.
He was arrested last December 2015 by Burundi’s intelligence services on suspicion of spying for his country.
Having lived in Burundi before, he has regularly been visiting Burundi for personal businesses after his retirement from politics.
The assassination has attracted furry and condemnation.
British High Commissioner to Rwanda and Burundi, William Gelling, said earlier in the day that Bihozagara’s death “underlines deep problems” after the UN Human Rights Commission reported “widespread arbitrary detention torture” in prisons.
The US government has also demanded Burundi to provide “unfettered access” for investigators from OHCHR, the AU, and other independent organizations.
Meanwhile, KT Press has also established that Viviand has been able to sneak out of Burundi and was expected in the Capital City Kigali this Saturday night.