Burundi risks genocide on a ‘descent into hell’
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