“Surprise, I’m still alive!” Noela Rukundo said to her husband, Balenga Kalala, as her own funeral was wrapping up. Stunned, the man gasped and replied, “Is it my eyes? Is it a ghost?” He went into a state of shock because he’d paid a gang of hitmen a handsome sum of cash to kill her — and they told him they’d done the dirty deed. Kalala grabbed her shoulder, she told the BBC in an interview, to see if she was real and began screaming hysterically as he realized the hitmen hadn’t completed the job as they’d told him. “I’m sorry for everything,” he cried out.
The road to that moment began, coincidentally, at another funeral. Rukundo and Kalala, with whom she had three children, had traveled from their home in Melbourne, Australia, to Burundi, her native country to attend the memorial of her step-mother. Rukundo also had five other children from a previous relationship. Anguished by the funeral, she laid down on the bed in her hotel room afterwards in a futile attempt to rest. Finally, her husband called on the phone and she told him of the overwhelming grief she felt. He advised her to take a walk outside of the hotel and get some fresh air, she recalled. The moment she did that, a man pointing a gun approached her and said, “Don’t scream. If you start screaming, I will shoot you. They’re going to catch me, but you? You will already be dead,” she said. The man and his cohorts abducted and blindfolded her, drove her to an undisclosed location where they questioned her.
“You woman, what did you do for this man to pay us to kill you?” one of the men asked her. Rukundo, still blindfolded was confused. “Balenga sent us,” he informed her. She was in disbelief, but to prove the wild claim the abductor dialed him on the phone, putting him on speaker. She heard the voice of her husband, and when the hitman asked what to do with her, Kalala replied, “Kill her.” Rukundo recalled being so overcome with shock that she abruptly fainted. When she regained consciousness a little later, the unthinkable happened. The hitmen turned out to have a conscience, a unique set of principles under which, she said they told her, they refused to kill women. In another unlikely twist, they were acquaintances with Rukundo’s brother. They explained that they were keeping the $7,000 Kalala had paid them, but allowing her to go free. They gave her telephone recordings of the conversations they’d had with Kalala, a receipt for the payment he’d made and told her, “We just want you to go back, to tell other stupid women like you what happened.”
She did just that, and with the help of her wily pastor and the police, Rukundo was able to show up at her own funeral, elicit a confession from her husband on a secretly recorded phone call that led to his conviction. And eventually she found out the chilling reason her husband paid to have her killed.
Hear Rukundo in her own words in the video below:
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Read the full story at The Washington Post.