Gun­men ex­e­cute nine in Bu­rundi cap­i­tal

Rwanda ac­cuses Bu­rundi lead­ers of com­mit­ting ‘mas­sacres’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

NAIROBI: Gun­men ex­e­cuted nine peo­ple in Bu­rundi’s cap­i­tal hours be­fore po­lice launched house-to-house searches for weapons yes­ter­day, amid in­ter­na­tional fears of fresh blood­let­ting in the cen­tral African na­tion. Hun­dreds of po­lice and sol­diers ringed the op­po­si­tion flash­point Mu­takura dis­trict of the cap­i­tal Bu­jum­bura early yes­ter­day to start a widely feared crack­down on “en­e­mies of the na­tion.” Res­i­dents said se­cu­rity forces were car­ry­ing out house-to­house searches. “The po­lice started the search op­er­a­tion for hid­den weapons in Mu­takura,” city mayor Freddy Mbon­impa said, adding the raids were be­ing “done pro­fes­sion­ally, be­cause the po­lice are us­ing weapon de­tec­tors.”

The mayor said seven peo­ple were killed in an “ex­e­cu­tion” at­tack on a bar on Satur­day night, adding that a probe had been launched to track the “as­sas­sins.” Two oth­ers later died of their wounds. Wit­nesses said at­tack­ers stormed into the bar, forc­ing those drink­ing out­side to en­ter and lie on the ground be­fore open­ing fire. In­ter­na­tional alarm has grown as a gov­ern­ment amnesty ended to hand in weapons ended with fears that it will trig­ger fur­ther vi­o­lence and draw­ing warn­ings from the head of the UN, Wash­ing­ton and the world’s only per­ma­nent war crimes court.

‘Corpses lit­ter the streets’

Rwan­dan Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame has ac­cused Bu­rundi’s lead­ers of car­ry­ing out “mas­sacres” on their peo­ple in his most crit­i­cal speech yet of the cri­sis in the trou­bled neigh­bor­ing state. “Peo­ple die ev­ery day, corpses lit­ter the streets... How can the lead­ers al­low their pop­u­la­tion to be mas­sa­cred from morn­ing to night?” Kagame said, speak­ing in Kin­yarwanda on Fri­day, in a speech heard by AFP yes­ter­day. Re­la­tions be­tween Rwanda and Bu­rundi are tense, with Bu­jum­bura ac­cus­ing Ki­gali of back­ing those who op­pose Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza’s con­tro­ver­sial third term in of­fice.

Bu­rundi has been hit by waves of vi­o­lence since Nku­run­z­iza launched his suc­cess­ful bid to win a third term, with bod­ies found dumped in the streets on a nearly daily ba­sis. Peo­ple in largely op­po­si­tion ar­eas have fled Bu­jum­bura, leav­ing key dis­tricts that have seen some of the worst re­cent vi­o­lence al­most empty. But one res­i­dent of Mu­takura dis­trict, who asked not to be named, said that while many had fled ahead of the se­cu­rity op­er­a­tion, “mostly men have stayed be­hind to pro­tect their be­long­ings.”

The se­cu­rity warn­ings have sparked in­tense fear. “I was ter­ri­fied, I un­der­stood that this time they would kill ev­ery last one of us,” said Marie, a sec­re­tary in her for­ties who fled Mu­takura on Satur­day, tak­ing her five chil­dren to a rel­a­tive’s house in a calmer part of the cap­i­tal. But apart from the bar at­tack, the city was oth­er­wise re­ported to be largely calm overnight, the mayor said. At least 200 peo­ple have died in the lat­est tur­moil and 200,000 have fled the coun­try, spark­ing fears that the vi­o­lence could spiral into mass blood­let­ting. “In­flam­ma­tory rhetoric de­ployed in re­cent days by some gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and Pres­i­dent Nku­run­z­iza’s planned se­cu­rity crack­down this week­end are in­creas­ing the risk of an out­break of mass vi­o­lence,”the US said Satur­day.

‘No war or geno­cide’

But the gov­ern­ment dis­missed the con­cerns, say­ing it wanted only to crush “ter­ror­ism” and com­par­ing the fight to So­ma­lia’s strug­gle against Is­lamist Al-She­bab in­sur­gents that Bu­rundi is fight­ing as part of an in­ter­na­tion­ally backed African Union force. “There will be no war or geno­cide,” pres­i­den­tial communications chief Willy Nyamitwe told AFP on Satur­day. “It is amaz­ing to see that a gov­ern­ment that wants to put an end to ter­ror­ism is crit­i­cized in­stead of be­ing en­cour­aged,” he added. The ris­ing un­rest has sparked fears Bu­rundi could slide back into con­flict af­ter its 1993-2006 civil war, when some 300,000 peo­ple died as rebels from the ma­jor­ity Hutu peo­ple clashed with an army dom­i­nated by the mi­nor­ity Tut­sis.

UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon said Fri­day that the dis­cov­ery of bod­ies “many ap­par­ently sum­mar­ily ex­e­cuted”-has be­come a “reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence” in Bu­rundi’s cap­i­tal Bu­jum­bura. Last week, the coun­try’s Sen­ate pres­i­dent Rev­e­r­ien Ndikuriyo threat­ened to “pul­verise” regime op­po­nents who do not lay down arms be­fore the Satur­day dead­line. “To­day, the po­lice shoot in the legs... but when the day comes that we tell them to go to ‘work’, do not come cry­ing to us,” he said. The loaded term “work” was a eu­phemism used in Rwanda dur­ing the 1994 geno­cide to de­scribe the mass killings of at least 800,000 mainly Tutsi peo­ple by ex­trem­ist Hutu mili­tias. —AFP

BU­JUM­BURA: Po­lice­men hold a po­si­tion in the Musaga neigh­bor­hood of Bu­jum­bura dur­ing a demon­stra­tion against the Bu­run­dian Pres­i­dent. —AFP

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