Burundi forces kill perceived regime opponents, says group


Burundi's government forces and ruling party members have beaten and killed perceived opponents of an upcoming referendum that could allow the president to extend his rule, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday, citing what it called "widespread impunity" for local authorities and their allies.

The New York-based rights group reported that it had confirmed 19 cases of abuse since December 12, "all apparently to press Burundians to vote yes on the referendum" that is scheduled for May 17.

State agents and members of a violent youth group allied with the ruling party, the Imbonerakure, have used repression to ensure the vote goes in the president's favor, and their victims include a man who was beaten to death and another whose beating may have resulted in his death, the group said in its report.

"There is little doubt that the upcoming referendum will be accompanied by more abuses," said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Burundian officials and the Imbonerakure are carrying out violence with near-total impunity to allow (the president) to entrench his hold on power."

Burundi's government denied the charges it targets perceived opponents, saying Human Rights Watch's report is "full of lies and fabrications."

"Those who have been arrested unjustly, let justice do its job .... There has never been a plan to harass this or that one because of his opinion, because even our constitution forbids it," said Therence Ntahiraja, the assistant minister of home affairs. "Yes, there may be some tensions here and there, but let's avoid associating that with this plan of modifying the constitution."

Burundi has been plagued by violence since April 2015, when deadly protests broke out after President Pierre Nkurunziza sought a third term, leaving an estimated 1,200 people dead. More than 400,000 people have fled the country.

The International Criminal Court judges last year authorized an investigation into allegations of state-sponsored crimes during the recent political upheaval in the East African nation that the U.N. human rights chief has called one of "the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times."

Nkurunziza rose to power in 2005 following the signing of the Arusha accords, which ended Burundi's civil war that killed about 300,000 people. He was re-elected unopposed in 2010 after the opposition boycotted the vote. He said he was eligible for the third term in 2015 because lawmakers, not the general population, had chosen him for his first term. Critics called the move unconstitutional.

In the upcoming referendum Burundians will say yes or no to a proposal to extend the president's term from five years to seven, which means Nkurunziza could rule for another 14 years when his current term expires in 2020.

___

Associated Press reporter Eloge Willy Kaneza in Bujumbura, Burundi, contributed to this report.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation & World

Anonymous donor pays tuition for entire inaugural University of Houston medical school class
Anonymous donor pays tuition for entire inaugural University of Houston medical school class

An anonymous donor pledged $3 million to pay the full tuition for the University of Houston’s inaugural class when its medical school opens in 2020.  The school will begin accepting applications for the 30 College of Medicine spots next year, and they expect a competitive applicant pool, according to KHOU. “It’s going to...
Man drowns trying to save 3 boys from rip current
Man drowns trying to save 3 boys from rip current

A man jumped into the Outer Banks in an attempt to save three boys caught in a rip current and was himself pulled out to sea on Thursday.  Kenny Ray Gooch, 32, of Powells Point, tried to save his girlfriend’s 12-year-old son,  who was swimming near the Kitty Hawk pier with two teens, when they were pulled 75 yards out by a rip current...
1 dead, 1 injured in Nevada church shooting, officials say
1 dead, 1 injured in Nevada church shooting, officials say

A man fatally shot one person and injured another at a Nevada church during service Sunday afternoon, officials said.  One person is dead. The other victim was taken to a hospital with a leg injury, Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford told KOLO. The identities have not been released.  The suspected gunman, John Kelley O’Connor, 48, walked...
3 children found with malnourished disabled man; parents arrested
3 children found with malnourished disabled man; parents arrested

Police arrested the mother and stepfather of three unsupervised children and a disabled adult who appeared to be malnourished after officers found them in a southwest Atlanta residence. Officers arrived to the house on Saturday at about 5:30 p.m., police spokesman John Chafee said in a statement. The people who called police had moved out of the house...
Scammers using photo of former councilman to catfish women
Scammers using photo of former councilman to catfish women

By most accounts, Alex Wan is a good-looking guy.  In fact, he might be so good-looking that dozens of men around the world want to be him — or at least have his face.  Images of the former Atlanta City Councilman and current executive director of Horizons Atlanta are popping up all over social media on the pages of men claiming to...
More Stories