Burundians flee homes over rising violence

People start to flee their homes in Burundian capital Bujumbura over fears of mass violence, genocide after President Nkurunziza's announcement

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Burundian refugee children at the Gashora Refugee Camp in the Bugesera district of Rwanda.

Families are fleeing their homes in Burundi's capital of Bjumbura, over fears of a possible new wave of violence after President Nkurunziza's speech.

Burundi has been hit with a cycle of violence, caused by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to win a third term.

President Nkurunziza had announced on Saturday a deadline for people to voluntarily deliver their illegal guns, or be treated as an enemy of the state, after months of violence and protests over Nkurunziza winning a third term in office earlier this year.

International concerns have grown about Burundi’s decisions, drawing warnings from the United Nations and the Hauge based International Criminal Court, which is the only war crimes court in the world.

The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court warned on Friday that she would take action if full-scale violence erupted in the country.

The government rejected the warnings, saying that they just want to finish ‘’terrorism’’ and this was as same as Somalia’s fight against Al Shabab.

"There will be no war or genocide," Presidential Communications Chief Willy Nyamitwe told AFP on Saturday.

"It is amazing to see that a government that wants to put an end to terrorism is criticised instead of being encouraged," he added.

Last week, President of Burundi's Senate Reverien Ndikuriyo, threatened to "pulverise" regime opponents who do not lay down arms before the deadline expires on Saturday.

He then stated, "Today, the police shoot in the legs ... but when the day comes that we tell them to go to 'work', do not come crying to us."

The term ‘’work’’ was used in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide to describe the mass killings of at least 800,000, mainly Tutsi people by Hutu militants.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) said, "The language is unambiguous to Burundians and chillingly similar to that used in Rwanda in the 1990s before the genocide."

A protestor opposed to Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza's third term holds a road sign reading Avenue of Democracy; during a demonstration in Bujumbura on May 26, 2015.

Additionally, leading Burundian human rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa’s son, Welly Nzitonda was killed and his body discovered on a street Friday, just couple of hours after he was arrested in Bujumbura, according to AFP.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, "is alarmed by the ongoing escalation of violence."

"He expresses grave concern that, in recent weeks, the discovery of the bodies of civilian victims, many apparently summarily executed, has become a regular occurrence in several neighbourhoods of Bujumbura," Dujarric said. 

"The recurring violence and killings in Burundi must stop. The secretary-general underlines the responsibility of the Burundian authorities to protect the civilian population, regardless of political affiliation and ensure that the widespread impunity for these heinous acts is brought to an immediate end."

"The secretary-general also condemns public statements that appear aimed at inciting violence or hatred towards different groups in Burundian society," he added.

The statement from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon came hours after the son of Burundian human rights activist Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa was killed.

Carina Tertsakian from Human Rights Watch said, "Ask anyone in Bujumbura and they will tell you the same thing: dark days lie ahead."

"Burundi seems to be descending into uncontrolled violence. A frightening lawlessness is taking hold, which some authorities appear to be taking advantage of to justify brutal repression."

President Pierre Nkurunziza

Nkurunziza’s victory had been welcomed by protests and violence in the country. Dozens have been killed since the elections, including Burundian opposition figures and supporters, as well as a former army chief and a former intelligence chief. The president of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detainees, Mbonimpa was shot and seriously wounded  by gunmen in August.

At least 200 people have died in the latest chaos and nearly 200,000 people have been displaced by the political crisis that began in April, since the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces announced Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel, could run for a third term as president. Fear of mass violence or even genocide is rising in the central African country.

There was a civil war in Burundi from 1993 to 2006 and approximately 300,000 people died in the conflict between rebels from majority Hutu people and an army dominated  by minority Tutsis.

TRTWorld and agencies