Fishing trespassers from Burundi handed back to their country

By Mark Martin Karuhanga

A story circulating around is alleging that Burundi is accusing Rwanda of abducting its fishermen. The Burundian government, according to this story, has accused the Rwandan marine force of kidnapping four of its fishermen on Lake Rweru.

What happened, according to sources within the Rwanda Police, is that there were indeed Burundian fishermen apprehended on the lake. But, first of all, it was three fishermen from Burundi, not four. Secondly, these people according to the police source “were arrested within Rwandan waters”.

Rwanda shares Lake Rweru with Burundi, with the Rwandan side of the lake lying in Eastern Province. According to the information provided by the police, the three fishermen were illegally fishing in Rwandan waters, “which is the same thing as theft”.

That happened around midnight, on the eighth, last Saturday.

When the army marine apprehended them, the Burundian fishermen claimed that because it was at night, they did not realize they had wondered into Rwandan waters.

The marine patrol did not detain them, but rather handed them over to the Rweru Police. The police detained them, as per procedure, but then since these were the nationals of another country, worked hand in hand with immigration on deportation procedures.

Today, Monday 10, December, the three men were handed over to Burundian authorities, both police and immigration, said our source. “The deportation papers, signed by the authorities of both countries, are there for anyone to see,” our sources added.

Internationally, when fishermen from one country work in the waters of another country it constitutes an act of aggression. But Rwanda has preferred to peacefully deport the men back to their country, without further incident.

According to observers President Nkurunziza, who according to regional media outlets such as The Nation is becoming increasingly isolated in the region, and is “in search of something to divert attention.”

This incident, according to the analysis, of trying to turn even a simple fisherman into an international incident – when they are only trespassers whom Rwanda has peacefully handed over – is the clearest sign of Nkurunziza’s desperation.