The international community must act quickly before the situation becomes irreparable

Press release
en fr

(Paris, Bujumbura) FIDH and the ITEKA League strongly condemn the assassination, today, of Willy Fleury Nzitonda, son of human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa and are concerned about the risk of violence quickly spreading throughout the country. The threatening and inflammatory statements made by some senior Burundian officials as well as the summary and extra-judicial executions taking place at the moment in Bujumbura, are forcing residents from several parts of the capital to flee for their safety. As the ultimatum given by the President of the Republic to those he qualifies as “armed criminals” will expire tomorrow, on November 7, 2015, our organisations urge the international community to act before it is too late.

“The authorities’ inflammatory rhetoric and threats, against a backdrop of political stalemate and extremely serious abuses, could easily trigger widespread violence throughout Burundi. The African Union and the United Nations must respond to the situation by adopting individual sanctions against the instigators of violence and has to be ready to intervene to protect the civilians.”

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

“People who incite or commit heinous crimes in Burundi need to know that they can be held criminally responsible for their actions. Crimes committed on a massive scale could fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), as the ICC Prosecutor has announced last May. We urge her to continue to monitor very closely the situation in Burundi and to reassert her potential jurisdiction in preventing the perpetration of the most serious crimes.”

Dismas Kitenge, FIDH Vice President

On Monday November 2, 2015, the President of the Republic, Pierre Nkurunziza issued an ultimatum to people who he called “armed criminals”, calling on them to lay down their weapons and to surrender by Saturday November 7. While addressing the nation in Kirundi [1], he said that this was the last call, “otherwise you will regret having joined the ranks of armed criminals”. Before that speech, and since then, several other high-ranked State officials, including the President of the Senate Mr. Révérien Ndikuriyo, the Minister of Defence Mr. Emmanuel Ntahomvukiye and the Minister of Public Security Mr. Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, used inflammatory rhetoric, hinting that all possible means would be used to neutralise the die-hards.

On October 30, Révérien Ndikuriyo declared: “today, although grenades are being hurled at them, the police are only shooting at people’s legs so as not to kill anyone. The day we will tell them to ‘go to work’ don’t come crying [2]. Moreover, Mr. Emmanuel Ntahomvukiye declared: “if we catch someone with a weapon, he should not come and whine. Anyone who comes weeping or yelping will be considered as an accomplice” [3]. Mr. Alain Guillaume Bunyoni added: “even if the security forces cannot restore order, we have a population of 9 million people to whom we just have to give a sign […] for them to be here in a few minutes. […] How could anyone survive in that situation if they refuse to follow the lead?” [4].

The recent international arrest warrants and requests for the extradition of political opponents, journalists and human rights defenders in exile are also evidence of the hard-line approach being taken by the current regime and the total absence of any willingness to hold constructive and inclusive discussions.

Before the expiry of the ultimatum launched by the President of the Republic, residents of several districts of Bujumbura, including the areas clashing with the regime, such as Mutakura, Cibitoke and Nyakabiga fled for their safety. The summary and extra-judicial executions carried out during the last several weeks have added to the atmosphere of fear. Today, bodies are still being found in the streets of the capital, and, in several cases, they would have been mutilated. Our organisations are also worried about information that confirms ongoing acts of torture in places of detention.


By forcing his way into a third term office, Pierre Nkurunziza has deeply divided Burundi just when the country was trying to build a democracy after the bloody civil war that killed close to 300,000 people between 1993 and 2005. In their fact-finding report, “Avoiding an explosion in Burundi” (in French: Éviter l’embrasement au Burundi), FIDH and the ITEKA League speak about the current political violence and the risk of escalated violence if no political solution to the crisis is found very quickly. Since President Nkurunziza announced that he was running for a third term, human rights violations have increased in Burundi. The family of prominent human rights defender Mr. Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was targeted on October 9, 2015. On this day, Pascal Nshimirimana, husband of Ms. Zigène Mbonimpa, daughter of Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, was murdered in his car in front of his house, by a hand grenade and gunshots.

Read more