Bu­rundi risks geno­cide on a ‘de­scent into hell’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Bu­rundi’s bru­tal regime has set the small cen­tral African coun­try on a “de­scent into hell”, a prom­i­nent hu­man rights group said yes­ter­day, warn­ing of the risk of geno­cide. “Since April 2015, when large pop­u­lar protests broke out against the de­ci­sion of Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza to seek a third term, Bu­rundi has been in vi­o­lent po­lit­i­cal cri­sis,” the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion for Hu­man Rights (FIDH) said. “We must stop this de­scent into hell,” said FIDH pres­i­dent Dim­itris Christopou­los.

“Let us act be­fore it is too late.” In a 200page re­port, the FIDH doc­u­mented how state-spon­sored vi­o­lence and op­pos­ing rebel groups have per­pet­u­ated a cy­cle of vi­o­lence. “The crack­down by the se­cu­rity ser­vices and the (rul­ing party’s youth wing) Im­bon­er­akure... aims pri­mar­ily at re­tain­ing power through any and all means,” the re­port said.

More than 1,000 peo­ple have died, be­tween 300 and 800 are miss­ing, some 8,000 are be­ing held for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons and more than 300,000 peo­ple have fled the coun­try, said the re­port ti­tled “Re­pres­sion and Geno­ci­dal Dy­nam­ics in Bu­rundi”. The FIDH, along with lead­ing Bu­run­dian rights group the ITEKA League, spent 24 months in­ves­ti­gat­ing rights abuses in the coun­try. “All the cri­te­ria and con­di­tions for the per­pe­trat­ing of geno­cide are in place,” the re­port said, list­ing “ide­ol­ogy, in­tent, se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions... iden­ti­fy­ing pop­u­la­tions to be elim­i­nated, and the us­ing of his­tor­i­cal jus­ti­fi­ca­tions.” Bu­rundi suf­fered a bru­tal civil war from 1993 un­til 2006 be­tween ma­jor­ity Hu­tus and mi­nor­ity Tut­sis, which claimed an es­ti­mated 300,000 lives.

A failed coup in May 2015 was the “break­ing point” af­ter which the au­thor­i­ties adopted a “logic of sys­tem­atic re­pres­sion”, the re­port said. Af­ter Nku­run­z­iza’s re­elec­tion in July 2015, the re­pres­sion deep­ened, it said, cit­ing tar­geted killings and mas­sive ar­bi­trary de­ten­tions. In ad­di­tion, eth­nic Hu­tus in power “have sought to turn a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis into an eth­nic one, equat­ing ‘op­po­nents’ and ‘rebels’ with Tut­sis,” the re­port warned. An­schaire Nikoy­a­g­ize, the now ex­iled pres­i­dent of the rights group, ITEKA League, said in a state­ment: “The crimes of the regime have be­come sys­tem­atic... Crimes against hu­man­ity are oc­cur­ring and there is a risk of geno­cide.” — AFP

BUJUMBURA: In this file photo, op­po­si­tion de­mon­stra­tors con­front army sol­diers in the Mu­tarakura district, as se­cu­rity forces try to pre­vent peo­ple moving out of their neigh­bor­hoods, in the cap­i­tal Bujumbura, Bu­rundi. — AP

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