By Samuel Ouga
World Wide Movement For Human Rights report says an estimated 154 civilians have been killed and close to 150 young men have disappeared in Burundi following an attack on army bases by unknown gun men.
Following the attacks on Friday 11, Security forces immediately proceeded to seal off districts deemed to be rebel areas and let loose a campaign of reprisals against the local young men, rounding up and summarily executing individuals, whose bodies continue to be discovered.
Apparently some 300 young men were arrested at their homes. 154 of them have been found dead since 12 December. All were unarmed civilians. Our organisations are extremely concerned about the fate of 130 to 150 missing youths and the on-going arrests in Bujumbura. The mass arrests of civilians and their extrajudicial executions which have been committed and apparently are still being committed mainly in Bujumbura are crimes of extreme gravity, possibly constituting international crimes.
On Friday, December 11th at about 4 AM insurgent groups launched coordinated attacks on two military camps, namely the Ngagara logistics base north of Bujumburu and the Burundi officers school (ISCAM) in the Musaga district in the south. Groups of armed individuals penetrated the military installations, allegedly stole weapons and ammunition and then were joined by some of the servicemen. For close to four hours the rebels fought the security forces with heavy weapons. Shortly thereafter they attacked the Mujejuru base in Mugugo Manga, in the province east of the capital.
Official sources report that 4 military personnel, 4 policemen and 79 “rebels” were killed during the attack and 47 “enemies” were arrested. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and the assailants, whose numbers are estimated to be between a few dozen and a few hundred have not been clearly identified. Some of them may be opponents who have taken up arms and some of them may be mutineers from the police force and the Burundian army.
After the confrontations, the security forces who support Pierre Nkurunziza arbitrarily arrested large numbers of people in the capital’s so-called districts of dissension, and according to information obtained by FIDH and the ITEKA League, at least 300 young men were caught in the raid, whereof 154 are said to have been executed and 130 to 150 are missing. The security forces also carried out summary and extrajudicial executions. According to information from administrative sources that has been borne out by witnesses, 154 unarmed bodies dressed in civilian clothes were found mainly around the bases, in the streets of Nyakabiga and Musaga, and near the Ntahangwa and Muha rivers since Saturday 12 December. Most of them were shot in the head and some of them died with their hands tied behind their backs. Three unidentified bodies were discovered on Wednesday, 16 December, buried near the Bujumbura central prison.
Police forces and local authorities had most of the bodies removed before any investigations could be started or the victims could be identified, allegedly for health reasons, but constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law and suggests that the authorities are trying to hide the evidence of the atrocities. Corroborative sources report the existence of a mass grave in Ruziba, behind the Kanyosha church, south of the capital, where 28 bodies appeared to have been buried on Saturday 12 December. Another mass grave was discovered in Buringa, a community a few kilometres from the Mpanda cemetery, in Bubanza province, north of Bujumbura. Three pick-up trucks were seen on Friday evening, 11 December filled with an unknown number of bodies which were later covered with dirt by a group of unidentified men.
Further, on Saturday the Musaga district was completely sealed off and the so-called dissension districts (Nyakabiga, Ngagara, Jabe, Mutakura, Cibitoke et Musaga) are still surrounded regularly by the police, the API (institution protection support) agency and the anti-riot brigade under Commissioner Désiré Uwamahoro and by the Imbonerakure youth militia who are still arresting people. There is a reign of terror in those districts, and the residents do not dare leave their homes.
The security forces are directly responsible for these crimes. FIDH and its member organisation in Burundi, the ITEKA League, have collected corroborative testimony about an ISCAM student who was on his way to the hospital to receive treatment, accompanied by a soldier, when National Intelligence Service agents and policemen took him away. He was shot in the head and died in the Nyakabiga neighbourhood where he was found shortly thereafter. Another ISCAM student is still missing.
The Burundian authorities are relentlessly harassing members of the civil society, political opponents, human rights defenders and journalists most of whom have gone into exile. On December 10th, 2015 Mrs Marie-Claudette Kwizera, Treasurer of the Burundian Human Rights Leagues (ITEKA), FIDH’s member organisation in Burundi, was arrested without a warrant by the National Intelligence Service (SNR). She is still being held in the SNR quarters where some SNR members have demanded 3,500,000 Burundi francs (about 2,050 euros) for her release. To this day, no further information has been obtained about her, and no one has been allowed to visit her.
Uganda’s President Museveni who is supposed to lead the mediation efforts in Burundi is currently fully occupied with presidential campaigns that will go on till February 2016. President Museveni who is also seeking a third term in office after 30 years as president is also perhaps not the best choice given the fact that Burundi’s crisis was sparked by President Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term; a move that violated Burundi’s constitution and the Arusha peace accord that ushered peace to Burundi after 11 years of a brutal civil war. Rwanda’s president Kagame’s move to change the country’s constitution to seek a third term in office further complicates the ability of East African States to scold Nkurunziza over the root cause of the current conflict.
Urgent action is needed to save Burundi from the current murderous illegal regime, that is committing mass murders with impunity.
This is how the UN has been during the ongoing Burundi crisis.
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