Marcel Semafaranga 93 , a resident of Mikingo village in Nyamasheke district, broke into tears when he heard the news that his mayor, Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana, had been arrested.
“This is impossible,” he lamented. “How can he be accused of embezzlement yet he is the one who provides me with money for medical insurance and survival?” wondered Semafaranga.
Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana, former Nyamasheke mayor, was arrested last week to answered charges of forgery and embezzlement of public funds.
Prosecution says he swindled money meant for the health insurance scheme (Mutuelle de Sante).
Elderly Semafaranga, was not aware of the mayor’s arrest until yesterday, when he arrived at the district’s premises to collect his regular stipend from the mayor.
Shedding tears, Semafaranga wondered, “to whom else can I go to now?…he provided me with everything including clothes and food. I am wearing the jacket he gave me.”
Semafaranga plans to visit the mayor from the prison. But he is not convinced the mayor embezzled public funds.
“He cannot steal money. How can he? Stealing money for what? He even gives the little he has to the needy.”
Onlookers were in shock as they witnessed an elderly man crying like a child.
“This is strange,” said Uwibambe, one of the villagers who were at the scene. “But it shows the strong bond he shared with the mayor.
Indeed, it is said that the mayor is too popular, and liked by the villgers. He regularly visited local pubs to share beer with the villagers.
Semafaranga is a farmer, married with five children.
By: Jean Claude Umugwaneza Rusakara
(translated by Dan Ngabonziza)