Bu­rundi mili­tia raped women with op­po­si­tion links: HRW

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

NAIROBI — Young sup­port­ers of Bu­rundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD party have raped women with per­ceived links to po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents ever since un­rest be­gan to flare there in 2015, Hu­man Rights Watch said yes­ter­day.

The party’s “Im­bon­er­akure” youth wing — whose name means “The Watch­men” — has long been ac­cused of us­ing bar­baric meth­ods to achieve po­lit­i­cal ends on be­half of Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza’s regime.

“At­tack­ers from Bu­rundi’s ruling party youth league tied up, bru­tally beat, and gang-raped women, of­ten with their chil­dren nearby,” said Skye Wheeler, women’s rights emer­gen­cies re­searcher at Hu­man Rights Watch.

“Many of the women have suf­fered long-term phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal con­se­quences,” Wheeler added.

Nku­run­z­iza’s con­tro­ver­sial but ul­ti­mately suc­cess­ful bid for a third term last year trig­gered a deadly cri­sis that has left more than 500 peo­ple dead and driven around 270,000 to leave the coun­try.

Sev­eral hun­dred women have re­ported rapes since then, ac­cord­ing to the UN, with the true fig­ures be­lieved to be much higher.

Willy Nyamitwe, a pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son, said in a se­ries of tweets that the Hu­man Rights Watch pub­li­ca­tion was “full of er­rors” and de­signed to “de­monise” his party’s youth wing.

“The Im­bon­er­akure are not a gang of rapists. The stig­ma­ti­sa­tion of @HRW is dan­ger­ous and puts their cred­i­bil­ity into ques­tion,” he posted.

Hu­man Rights Watch in­ter­viewed more than 70 rape vic­tims in the Nduta refugee camp in western Tan­za­nia who said they had fled fol­low­ing at­tacks by Im­bon­er­akure.

Tes­ti­mony re­vealed the rapes ap­peared to be mo­ti­vated by the women’s hus­bands’ po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions with op­po­si­tion groups, who were also ha­rassed, beaten and even killed. “Men armed with guns, sticks, or knives have raped women dur­ing at­tacks on their homes, most of­ten at night,” the rights group said, re­sult­ing in un­wanted preg­nan­cies and the spread of sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases.

Vic­tims ei­ther recog­nised Im­bon­er­akure foot sol­diers, who of­ten con­trol en­tire towns and vil­lages, or were told that their part­ner’s sup­port for op­po­si­tion par­ties was the rea­son they had been tar­geted as they were as­saulted.

Some women de­scribed be­ing raped close to the Tan­za­nia bor­der by men be­lieved to be Im­bon­er­akure, who then “or­dered the vic­tims to re­turn home, or ver­bally ha­rassed them for at­tempt­ing to leave”.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil is un­der pres­sure to take ac­tion in Bu­rundi, where the de­scent into vi­o­lence has raised fears of mass atroc­i­ties, sim­i­lar to those that con­vulsed neigh­bour­ing Rwanda in 1994.

France has pre­sented a draft res­o­lu­tion to the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil that calls for de­ploy­ing up to 228 UN po­lice to Bu­rundi to mon­i­tor hu­man rights and help quell vi­o­lence.

Nyamitwe fur­ther ac­cused the rights group of be­ing un­der the or­ders of “those who are fight­ing to get their po­lice pro­ject passed”, a clear ref­er­ence to France. — AP

Pierre Nku­run­z­iza

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