Former Rwandan diplomat dies in Burundian jail

Former Rwandan ambassador to France and Belgium has died in Burundian jail following his arrest on suspicion of spying, says prison officials

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

Former Rwandan Minister Jacques Bihozagara speaks during a press conference in Brussels on April 23, 1995.

A former Rwandan ambassador to France and Belgium has lost his life in a Burundian jail after being detained on espionage charges since December 2015.

Jacques Bihozagara also served as a former minister of youth in his country.

The former diplomat "went by himself to the central prison clinic after feeling ill yesterday," a Mpimba prison official told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.

"He suddenly died a few minutes later," the official said, adding that it "may have been a heart attack".

Justice ministry spokesman Elie Ntungwanayo stated that they suspected that he had hypertension and that the definite cause of his death would be revealed after his autopsy. 

Rwanda declared the death to be suspicious.

"Jacques Bihozagara is one of many Rwandans in Burundi who died violently or suspiciously in the past months," said Rwandan foreign ministry official Eugene Ngoga.

Cycle of violence in Burundi

Burundi has been in a cycle of violence since April 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza won a disputed election following his decision to seek a third term, despite a constitutional two-term limit.

More than 400 people have been killed and about 3,500 arrested in Burundi, under the government crackdown, since April last year, according to the United Nations figures.

Protests against President Nkurunziza erupted after he announced his bid for a controversial third term in April 2015. (Reuters Archive)

According to statistics by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, as of early March, 250,473 Burundians have fled the country, fearing a possible genocide.

They were registered as refugees in neighbouring countries including Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The European Union has suspended its direct financial support to the government of Burundi after the bloc concluded that it had finished peace talks with the Burundian government to find a political solution for the conflict.

From 1993 to 2005 Burundi was in a civil war in which approximately 300,000 people died due to conflict between rebels from the country's majority Hutu population and an army dominated by the Tutsi minority.

The African Union and United Nations have warned in the past of a possible tribal war and genocide in Burundi.

TRTWorld and agencies