Violence in Burundi continues Urgent need for concerted action by the international community

15/10/2015
Press release
en fr
Yvan Rukundo / Anadolu Agency

(Bujumbura, Paris) Considering the persistence of violence in Burundi mainly against civilians, FIDH, ITEKA and LDGL urge the international community to take major steps to guarantee the protection of the civilian population. The gravity of the situation requires urgent concerted action to revive political dialogue, investigate crimes committed in the past several weeks, ensure that the perpetrators are prosecuted and convicted, and activate well-targeted sanctions mechanisms.

“Arbitrariness, violence and impunity are commonplace in Burundi. The population lives under the yoke of fear exacerbated by summary and extra-judicial executions, massive arbitrary arrests and detentions, allegations of acts of torture, threats and intimidation, mainly by the ruling authorities. The situation could flare up if the international community does not take any far-reaching, coordinated actions“, stated our organisations.

On 3 October, violence broke out again north of the capital, Bujumbura. In Mutakura, Cibitoke and Ngagara districts – known to have been at the heart of the opposition to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s 3rd term – eight, and possibly more civilians were killed, two houses were set on fire and another one was shelled until it exploded.

Various sources reported that the police force was very brutal, used excessive and disproportionate force, and may even have committed summary and extra-judicial executions. Around 11 am on Saturday 3 October a large anti-riot brigade of the Burundi national police (PNB) was deployed in Cibitoke and Mutakura ostensibly to deal with a case of kidnapping, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Public Security1. However, according to several sources, policemen forced people out of their homes, made some of them kneel on the road and executed them. In Cibitoke, one person pulled the pin out of two grenades and blew himself up. The explosion apparently killed a few policemen. The police torched two houses in the same neighbourhood. In Ngagara, shellfire blew up a house and several grenades were thrown.

According to information collected by our organisations, five bodies were found on Sunday 4 October on 10th Avenue in Cibitoke, including the corpse of a disabled person; one body was found on 8th Avenue in Cibitoke, and two were found on 13th Avenue in Mutakura. Our organisations were not able to gather information on the number of lives lost during the violent period in Ngagara. The authorities said that the situation was being investigated.

Today, Bujumbura was the scene of another targeted killing. Pascal Nshimirimana, the husband of Zigène Mbonimpa, the daughter of Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was assassinated in front of his house. He was shot at and a hand grenade was thrown at him while he was still in his car. According to early reports, the killers, who have still not been identified, were looking for Zigène Mbonimpa. Our organisations urge the Burundian authorities to do their utmost to shed light on this second attack against the family of Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a prominent human rights defender and the head of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH). He is still recovering from an attempt to murder him last August 3rd.

“ These acts are extremely serious, and are just the most recent examples of the violence that has been taking place in Burundi since the beginning of the electoral crisis. To date, no formal credible investigation has been carried out to determine who is responsible and to put an end to the violence. On the contrary, the authorities have chosen to respond by using stigmatisation and repression”, said the aforementioned organisations.

There are several indications that the Burundian authorities may further repress dissidence may it be real or alleged. Our organisations are particularly concerned about the recent creation of a special police unit that would be in charge of “preventing and managing major events and serious acts of terrorism” and are worried that it would be used to intimidate and crack down on the dissenting voices. The fact that Colonel Désiré Uwamahoro, who according to several human rights organisations2 has been involved in human rights violations including acts of torture, has been appointed to head this unit, has added to this fear.

Today, FIDH, ITEKA and LDGL are publishing a position paper on the human rights situation in Burundi (in French) in which they call on the international community to strengthen and better coordinate its action in this country. Our organisations describe the political stalemate pitting the authorities against the main opposition parties, and the increasing number of acts of violence and obstacles to fundamental freedoms.

Several states and international organisations have recently taken a stand or measures regarding the situation in Burundi. Our organisations welcome these initiatives and urge the African Union (AU) together with the United Nations (UN) to encourage the resumption of the political dialogue. Concerning the sanctions, and to be more effective, the AU, the UN and the European Union3 should adopt a common approach by applying institutional and individual sanctions defined in their respective regulations. Similarly, since the UN Human Rights Council recently adopted a resolution to authorise a review of the human rights situation in the country, our organisations call for the development of closer relations with the observers sent in by the African Union. The two institutions must systematically investigate crimes committed in Burundi, publish their findings and demand that the criminals be prosecuted and judged by competent, independent, impartial courts.

Context


By forcing his way into a third term of office, President 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 ) dated May 2015, FIDH and ITEKA referred to the current political violence and the risk of escalated violence if no political solution was found very quickly to the crisis.

Read more
communique