Human rights violations including extra-judicial executions. Hate speeches. No dialogue with the opposition. The real risk of civil war.
On the 11 December, in the latest coordinated attacks, gunmen stormed three military installations in Burundi before dawn. At least 15 people were killed. Only last month 87 people have been killed. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the attacks and warned they could lead to further destabilization in Burundi. The U.N. chief has urged Burundi’s government to create conditions for an inclusive dialogue “that can address the deep political challenges facing the country.”
The U.N. Security Council also strongly condemned the latest attacks, and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said the council should look at “how the international community can protect civilians from mass violence, including for the possible deployment of a regionally led peace support operation.”
The United Nations Security Council called for inclusive talks and warned of further actions against those who incited more violence. The council said it would “consider additional measures against all Burundian actors whose actions and statements contribute to the perpetuation of violence and impede the search for a peaceful solution.”
The ruling CNDD party accuses Tutsis and some Hutu opposition members of opposing Nkurunziza’s third term and vowed to crush them. More than 200 people have been killed since the beginning of demonstrations against the unconstitutional third term. More than 220,000 people have fled mainly to Tanzania and Rwanda. Thousands men and women have been sent to jail without trial and many others are unaccounted for. The number of people who disappear and can’t be found has also been increasing.
In a speech to the nation on 2 November, president Nkurunziza gave five days to those holding weapons illegally to surrender them voluntarily or be :”considered as criminals, who will face the anti-terrorism law and will be fought as enemies of the country,” starting from 8th November. “From Monday, it is granted to you the security forces, the right to use what has been given to you to ultimately find the weapons wherever they are reported until full restoration of security,” he said. His vice-president, who paradoxically is a member of the pro-Tutsi Union for National Progress, Uprona, added fuel to fire saying:”We have warned you, we will use all means, and even airplanes…political leaders should warn their supporters that the polemics have no more space, playtime is over.”
The president of the Senate, Reverien Ndikuriyo, was more spot on as to what awaited the inhabitants of the areas which continued to oppose Nkurunziza’s third term. In a recording made secretly as he spoke to a meeting of local leaders, Ndikuriyo told security forces which include mainly the police, the dreaded intelligence, pro-government militiamen called Imbonerakure and the army to “spray” and “exterminate these people who are only good to die.” “I give you this order, go ahead. If you hear the signal with an instruction that it must end, emotions and tears will have no more room…Wait for the day when it will be said “work” you will see the difference! The police is currently hiding to escape grenades, but you will see the difference the day they will receive the message to work”, he told security forces. Ndikuriyo promised plots to local administrative who would cooperate.
For the inhabitants of the areas which protested against Nkurunziza’s third term, the message of an impending massacre was clear. They flocked out of the areas in thousands leaving few able-bodied men to guard their belongings. The population had understood the message as meaning that they would be killed and their plots given out to local officials.
In allusion to the Hutu majority, the powerful minister of public security General Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, warned that “even if the police fail …we have nine million citizens for whom we only need to make a call sign. Within minutes, they will be here. Who then among those who do not accept to move at the same pace with us, would survive?”
Belgium, the former colonial power of Burundi, was at the front warning that the world should act fast to avoid a repeat of the Rwandan experience. The United States, the AU and UN condemned the hate speeches. France, which denied Rwandan accusations of aiding genocide perpetrators in 1994, tabled a resolution at the United Nations Security Council to prevent a repeat of the Rwandan massacres.
Louis Michel, a Belgian EU deputy who witnessed the negotiations and signing of the Arusha agreement which ended the civil war of the 90s in Burundi, called on the EU and the rest of the world to do something to avert another genocide in the Great Lakes region. “we still carry the weight of inaction of the international community in Rwanda, 21 years ago only, it is not acceptable to make the same mistake twice”, Michel said.
African countries, however, remained silent except Rwandan President Paul Kagame. He said: “People are dying every day, human corpses litter the streets. How can the leaders allow their population to be massacred from morning to night?”
President Kagame condemned the massacres saying: “Burundi’s leaders pride themselves on being men of God, some are even pastors…but what God do they believe in…Is there anywhere in the Bible where leaders are allowed to massacre their people?”
Nkurunziza is a saved evangelical pastor who seizes every opportunity to remind Burundians that he owes his power to divine intervention. He has been quoted by the media saying that he will leave power only when he dies and that his ruling National Council for Defence of Democracy will cease governing the country when Jesus returns. Those who know him say “he brandishes a bible in his hand while holding a knife behind the back.”
In his first tour of Africa in November, during the Ugandan leg, Pope Francis called for dialogue to solve the Burundian problem. “Sadly, there are many troubling situations in our world for which we must pray, beginning with realities closest to us,” he told Ugandan priests, nuns and religious students. “I pray especially for the beloved people of Burundi, that the Lord may awaken in their leaders and in society as a whole a commitment to dialogue and co-operation, reconciliation and peace,” the pontiff added. (C.B.)