The government of Burundi is holding a Rwandan man identified as Cyprien Rucyahintare who, according to family members, escaped from home after a community court had charged him with burglary.
Security organs in Burundi last week paraded Cyprien Rucyahintare before the media – claiming they had captured a Rwandan soldier.
Rucyahintare is reported to have confessed to how he had been deployed by the Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) to conduct subversive activities on Burundian territory.
The allegations are particularly serious as they come at a time when the government in Bujumbura has repeatedly accused Rwanda of destabilising it.
Police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye told reporters that Rucyahintare entered Burundi in May 2015 to help extract the plotters of a failed coup and then in November 2015 to gather intelligence for attacks on VIPs.
And the story went viral in the media, including on the BBC and French broadcaster RFI.
But according to Rucyahintare’s father, Estalase Nsabimana, the allegations against his son are laughable. Nsabimana says he learnt about his son’s whereabouts after days without hearing from him.
Nsabimana, a resident of Batima village of Rweru sector in Bugesera district, eastern province, a few miles away from Rwanda-Burundi boarder, was not surprised when he heard the news.
He says his son, the 7th child among eight, is a petty criminal. “That is how he earns a living, he has never been a soldier,” says Nsabimana, a farmer.
“First he used to steal chicken [from neighbours], then he began stealing goats – including a recent case from Augustin Somugabo,” Nzabimana narrates.
Rucyahintare was apparently caught stealing the goats and his father bailed him out and paid back the goats. The father decided to give his son a piece of land from his large plot so that his son can begin cultivating instead of stealing. “I told him if he was caught again stealing, he would be responsible.”
Rucyahintare never heeded his father’s advice. He stole again and was caught. KT Press has obtained records of his cases and his arrest from the Bugesera District Police Unit of Nyamata.
Burundi said the arrested “solider” was number 284,049 in the Rwandan army. For the Rwanda Military Spokesperson, Brig. Gen Joseph Nzabamwita, Burundi made “false and unfortunate accusations.”
He said the media “never bothered to check if the information is true before publication, and took it on face value.”
“RDF does not have any soldier with such names, no kind of matriculate exists in RDF,” Brig. Gen. Nzabamwita said. “[The] accusations are childish, ridiculous and lack credibility.”
“RDF has no missing soldier,” he said.
Burundi authorities have not challenged the rebuttal from Rwanda.