Burundi: All parties must prioritise safety of civilians as tension escalates

All parties to the unfolding crisis in Burundi must ensure the safety of civilians Amnesty International said today amid reports of an attempted coup.

“Those who commit crimes under international law will be brought to justice. Burundi’s recent history has been beset by violence to which it cannot be allowed to return. The military, the police and the ruling party’s youth-wing, the Imbonerakure, will be held to account if they commit crimes under international law,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

The latest developments have increased the risk to civilians in a country already facing escalating violence. Those in power in Burundi have the ultimate duty to ensure that no more lives are lost as the situation unfolds.
Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

 

“The latest developments have increased the risk to civilians in a country already facing escalating violence. Those in power in Burundi have the ultimate duty to ensure that no more lives are lost as the situation unfolds.”

Opposition members, human rights activists and journalists are also at risk of potential reprisals by the Imbonerakure.

Background:

General Godefroid Niyombare, a former Chief-of-Staff of the Army and former intelligence chief, stated on a private radio station that the police and the military have “dismissed” President Pierre Nkurunziza as Burundi’s Head of State. A government aide has since brushed aside the coup declaration and said they are bringing the security situation under control.

Protests in Burundi erupted three weeks ago when Nkurunziza was elected as a candidate for the forthcoming presidential elections in June – despite the fact that Burundi’s Constitution and the Arusha Peace Agreement only allow a president to hold office for two terms.

On 5 May, Burundi’s Constitutional Court ruled to allow Nkurunziza to run for another term, which triggered further protests.

The media have reported that as many as 20 people may have been killed in the course of the uprisings. Eye witnesses on the ground have confirmed to Amnesty International the death of four people by security services during the protests.

Some 50,000 people have fled to Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania since the violence began, many citing abuses or fear of abuses by the Imbonerakure.