Top aide to Bu­rundi pres­i­dent es­capes as­sas­si­na­tion bid

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A top ad­vi­sor to Bu­rundi’s pres­i­dent and the most pub­lic face of the gov­ern­ment has es­caped an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt, the lat­est po­lit­i­cal at­tack in the cri­sis-wracked na­tion.

Willy Nyamitwe was re­turn­ing to his home in the cap­i­tal Bu­jum­bura on Mon­day night when “he was met with sus­tained gunfire and grenade ex­plo­sions”, a high-rank­ing pres­i­den­tial of­fi­cial told AFP on yes­ter­day, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, One of his body­guards was killed and an­other in­jured while Nyamitwe suf­fered slight wounds to his arm.

Po­lice said the as­sailants were wait­ing in a nearby house un­der con­struc­tion be­fore launch­ing the am­bush. “Thank God, Willy Nyamitwe nar­rowly es­caped an at­tack...,” tweeted Bu­rundi’s UN am­bas­sador Al­bert Shin­giro.

Nyamitwe is one of the most prom­i­nent voices in Bu­rundi, an ac­tive tweeter who fre­quently crit­i­cises the West for in­ter­fer­ing in the cen­tral African na­tion. “I thank those who wish me a speedy re­cov­ery. I am do­ing well but sad­dened by the death of a best friend, the po­lice­man Ga­songo,” Nyamitwe tweeted af­ter the at­tack.

His brother Alain Aime Nyamitwe, also Bu­rundi’s for­eign min­is­ter, de­scribed the as­sas­si­na­tion bid as “a new, point­less ef­fort to dis­turb repub­li­can in­sti­tu­tions”. Born in the early 1970s, when their fa­ther was killed in a wave of eth­nic vi­o­lence against Hu­tus by the Tutsi-dom­i­nated army, the Nyamitwe brothers have risen to be­come Bu­jum­bura’s bul­wark against an in­creas­ingly crit­i­cal in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

Bu­rundi has been in tur­moil since Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza an­nounced plans in April last year to run for a third term, which he went on to win. More than 500 peo­ple have been killed in the un­rest and at least 300,000 have fled the coun­try, while sev­eral well-known fig­ures, in­clud­ing high­rank­ing mil­i­tary of­fi­cers, have been as­sas­si­nated.

In April, Hu­man Rights Min­is­ter Martin Nivya­bandi and his wife were in­jured in a grenade at­tack while leav­ing church. Gen­eral Adolphe Nshimi­r­i­mana, con­sid­ered Nku­run­z­iza’s right-hand man, was killed in Au­gust 2015, the high­est-rank­ing mem­ber of the regime to be as­sas­si­nated.

A vol­ley of re­ports by in­ter­na­tional rights groups ac­cus­ing the gov­ern­ment of atroc­i­ties and warn­ing of geno­cide has in­fu­ri­ated Bu­jum­bura, which says there is a “for­eign plot” to over­throw the gov­ern­ment.

Bu­rundi in Oc­to­ber for­mally in­formed the United Na­tions that it in­tended to with­draw from the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court. It also sus­pended co­op­er­a­tion with the UN hu­man rights of­fice and de­clared three UN rights in­ves­ti­ga­tors per­sona non grata af­ter a damn­ing Septem­ber re­port de­tail­ing atroc­i­ties.

A re­port by the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion for Hu­man Rights (FIDH) two weeks ago warned of the risk of geno­cide in the coun­try which suf­fered a bru­tal civil war from 1993 to 2006 be­tween ma­jor­ity Hu­tus and mi­nor­ity Tut­sis, which claimed an es­ti­mated 300,000 lives.

In re­sponse, Nyamitwe launched the hash­tag #Thi­sisMyGeno­cide, post­ing pic­tures of him­self pos­ing with a kit­ten or jug­gling eggs to mock the “bi­ased re­port”.

On Satur­day, thou­sands of Bu­run­di­ans heeded a call by gov­ern­ment to protest at a new probe into al­leged rights vi­o­la­tions af­ter the Genev­abased Hu­man Rights Coun­cil ap­pointed com­mis­sion­ers to lead the one-year in­ves­ti­ga­tion. —AFP

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