BUJUMBURA – After having been detained for two weeks in the national intelligence office in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura, the former boss of the anti-riot brigade Lieutenant Colonel Desiré Uwamahoro appeared in front of the prosecutor of the Bujumbura Court of Appeal.
He was auditioned for more than seven hours and afterwards was transferred to the central jail of Bubanza 46km northwest of Bujumbura, according to police sources.
Uwamahoro is accused of a vast illegal gold swindle. The case is delicate and no official has dared to publicly talk about his arrest.
According to police sources, Uwamahoro was arrested on October 29 by a group of heavily armed Special Brigade for the Protection of the Institutions (BSPI) commandos. According to the same sources, he worked with five other people, including three Congolese and two Somalis.
The suspected crooks allegedly swindled Syrian businessman Issa Ahmad out of money. Ahmad currently lives in Kuwait. The six allegedly told Ahmad they had a quantity of gold for sale from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but the loading of the gold had to take place in Bujumbura.
Ahmad was interested in the offer and travelled to Burundi to conclude the delivery, staying a month. According to some reports, Uwamahoro took charge of obtaining false document and a visa allowing Ahmad to freely export merchandise, telling Burundian officials that Ahmad wanted to invest in Burundi.
Ahmad spent $155,000(R2.2 million) on all the formalities. The suspicions in the security forces and administration were aroused when Ahmad ordered a private aircraft to transport the merchandise. When the aircraft landed at Bujumbura international airport, officials who were unaware of the aircraft’s purpose at the airport called security forces and the fraud was uncovered. Ahmad allegedly lost more than $220,000 during his month in Burundi.
Before his arrest, Uwamahoro headed the anti-riot brigade, commanding the operations aimed at crushing protests in Bujumbura after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced in April 2015 he would run for a third term.
Uwamahoro’s name appeared in many reports of the United Nations and human rights organisations. He was mentioned for his direct involvement in extra judicial killings, torture, and disappearances of people opposed to Nkurunziza’s third term, which sparked Burundi’s current political crisis. More than 600 people have been killed and more than 300,000 have fled to neighbouring countries.
The international community has appealed to the Burundi government and opposition to negotiate a solution to the crisis, but the government has repeatedly said it would not negotiate with those it considered to be coup plotters, calling them terrorists.