Post-election killings now hit 140 in Burundi

Saturday October 17 2015

At least 140 people have been killed in Burundi since violence broke out in April, 21 of them in the past two weeks.

In Bujumbura suburbs, residents have been spending sleepless nights as heavy gunfire and grenade explosions continue to rock the capital late at night.

Last Tuesday night, 10 people were killed in the city, among them national broadcaster employee Christophe Nkezabahizi and his entire family. He was killed during a disarmament operation alongside his two daughters, aged 14 and 16, and his wife at their home in Ngagara, a suburb believed to be a hotbed of protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s election for a third term.

Security forces are forcibly disarming illegally armed civilians, even though the president has announced an amnesty for those who voluntarily surrender the weapons by the end of the month. Those who miss the deadline risk imprisonment of between two and 10 years and a fine of BIF100,000 ($63.7) to BIF5 million ($3,176), according to sources.

“It is the new special force unit that attacked Nkezabahizi’s home and killed all the members,” a Ngagara resident said.

Deputy police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye however said the family was killed “in the operation by the security forces to free hostages that were held by gunmen” while the chairman of the ruling CNDD-FDD party, Pascal Nyabenda, said in a statement that the victims had been used as a human shield by the alleged armed group.


“Two policemen were kidnapped and handcuffed by armed criminals in Ngagara; so when police came to their rescue, the armed criminals tossed a grenade that killed one policeman and injured the other,” he said.

The senior policeman said six people were killed as officers pursued the alleged armed men in the capital.

READ: Tuesday attacks kill 7 in Burundi capital

Meanwhile, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) has expressed its concern over the spiralling violence.

“We are concerned by the deteriorating security situation and the increase in acts of violence, which has resulted in the loss of human life and poses a serious threat to peace and stability in Burundi and the region as a whole,” the ICGLR said in a statement.

The government says 3,188 people have been arrested, 53 of them for illegal possession of ammunition, since the protests began five months ago.

“One month after the president gave a two-month ultimatum to restore peace and stability, especially in areas that have held protests, 90 per cent of the mission is complete and we are optimistic that we will meet the deadline and the country will be peaceful,” said Minister for Public Security Alain Guillaume Bunyoni.

The operations have forced some residents to flee the violence in suburbs seen as opposition strongholds.

“It is difficult for opposition political parties to make such kind of attacks; in my own understanding, it is a kind of rebellion in the capital,” said UPD bureau chief and former CNDD-FDD executive secretary Pasteur Mpawenayo, one of the few government critics who are still in the country.

He said youths who were active in the anti-third term protests and no longer felt safe may have started a rebellion. The government recently accused protest organisers — including opposition and civil society leaders — of carrying out the attacks in order to destabilise the country.

A meeting of ICGLR defence ministers due this week will focus on the security situation in the region and Burundi in particular.

The inter-Burundi dialogue, which has been suspended four times, was last mediated by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. However, President Nkurunziza has issued a decree to form a dialogue commission that will only be mediated by Burundi citizens.