Genocide Watch Alert: Burundi
Since its independence from Belgium in 1962, there have been sporadic bursts of ethnic violence between the Hutu majority and Tutsi minority in Burundi. Civil unrest erupted in Burundi this year, following the 26th of April announcement by the ruling party Conseil National Pour la Défense de la Démocratie – Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie (CNDD-FDD) that President Pierre Nkurunziza would run for a third term in the 2015 elections. Opposition parties in Burundi claim that this is a direct violation of the 2000 Arusha Peace Agreement and Burundi Constitution, which limits presidents to two terms in office.
In 1972, an estimated 150,000 Hutus, including nearly all educated Hutus, were massacred by the Tutsi government forces in the wake of a Hutu-led uprising in the south. In 1988, another 25,000 Hutus were killed at Ntega and Marangara in northern Burundi.
Peace talks led by Burundi President Buyoya resulted in the first multi-party elections in Burundi in 1993. However, the assassination of Hutu President Melchior Ndadaye, elected in the first multi-party election, sparked a 12 year long civil war. This conflict can be classified “bilateral genocide” by the two dominant groups against each other, and is estimated to have killed 300,000 people in Burundi, mostly civilians. The situation somewhat stabilized with the organization of the 2005 elections, and in May 2008 the government and the last active rebel group signed a ceasefire agreement. No one has been prosecuted for the massacres in the past fifty years.
Today, reports of hate speech and incitement to violence by the government are increasing. Both Amnesty International and the UN Security Council express grave concern regarding the violation of right to life, inhumane and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrests and detention, and violation of press freedom and the right to information. Members of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the CNDD-FDD, have committed human rights abuses on the pretext of maintaining security. They prevented opposition party meetings, intimidated, attacked and killed members of the opposition with impunity. According to UNHCR over 158,000 Burundians have fled the country since 13 April 2015, which has created increased tension in the entire Great Lakes region.
In May 2015, the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of President Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a third term, amid reports of judges being intimidated. On 13 May 2015 Major General Godefroid Nyiombare led a failed coup attempt. In response to the Court’s decision and the failed coup, protesters took to the street and violence erupted, leading thousands to flee the country. President Nkurunziza won a third term in the presidential election in July, but the opposition boycotted the election in protest of his candidacy.
The United Nations Security Council has established the United Nations Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi (MENUB) to report to the Security Council before, during and after the 2015 elections in Burundi. On 25 February, a new Peacebuilding Fund project was approved with $1.24 million to support political dialogue in Burundi and to promote a peaceful pre-electoral and post-electoral climate. In spite of the presence of UN efforts, human rights violations in Burundi are increasing.
Genocide watch considers Burundi at stage 7: Preparation. While the current conflict is primarily political in nature, there is risk of it reigniting pre-existing ethnic cleavages.
Genocide Watch recommends:
- – All political parties must refrain from using inflammatory language or inciting violence. Incitement to genocide should be prosecuted.
- – All paramilitary groups and militias, including the Imbonerakure, should be immediately demobilized and disbanded.
- – The AU should urgently deploy human rights observers and military experts to verify disarmament.
- – The East African Community, the AU and the UN should coordinate mediation efforts between the Burundian government and the political opposition in order to resolve the current crisis.
Copyright: Genocide Watch 2015
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