Burundi: Impending conflict fears as country terrorised by youth wing

  • Government’s youth wing kill, harass and beat opponents 
  • Public gatherings banned
  • Political opponents arrested after speaking out 

Burundi’s ruling party is carrying out a relentless campaign of intimidation against government critics while its youth wing is accused of committing a string of human rights abuses, ahead of next year’s elections, said Amnesty International as it published its new report today (Tues 29 July). 

Report - Burundi: Locked down - a shrinking of political space

The youth wing of the CNDD-FDD, the “Imbonerakure”, has been responsible for intimidation, harassment and violence, attacking and even killing members of the political opposition with impunity. Amnesty’s report shows how one opposition member was shot and killed by two soldiers on the orders of a local official and a member of the youth wing. Another opposition member had his teeth knocked out when he was beaten up. 

In April, a leaked internal cable sent by the UN Office in Burundi reported that two members of the military had, in one province, supplied the youth wing and demobilised soldiers with weapons and military uniforms. These allegations have been denied by the government which dismissed a proposal by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide to establish an independent investigation commission into their substance.   

A month later, a well-known human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, was arrested after stating on radio that young men were receiving arms and uniforms and travelling to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo for military training. 

Amnesty International’s Burundi Researcher Tom Gibson said: 

“Allegations that the Imbonerakure have been armed and trained must be investigated, especially in light of these reports of attacks and intimidation.

“Burundi is a nation emerging from a long and troubling history of violent conflict. The government must open up space for legitimate criticism and stop further repression in the build-up to the 2015 elections.”

Meanwhile, opposition groups and civil society have been arbitrarily denied permission to meet publicly or hold demonstrations.  So far this year, lawyers have been stopped from holding their general assembly, journalists were banned from marking International Press Freedom Day, and a group of university students were told they were not able to meet.

Amnesty is calling on the African Union to consider all threats, including violations of civil and political rights in Burundi, within the framework of the Continental Early Warning System, which aims to anticipate and prevent the outbreak of conflict. 

The organisation is also calling on Burundian authorities to respect, protect and fulfil Burundians’ rights to freedom of assembly and expression. 

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Burundi: Locked down - a shrinking of political space