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Press Statement – Burundi : Repression of a genocidal character, the UN’s response must be strong (15.04.2016)

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PARIS, France, April 15, 2016 Back from a fact-finding mission in Burundi, conducted in March 2016, FIDH and ITEKA condemn serious human rights violations in Burundi, mainly perpetrated by defence and security forces, against a background of ethnic and genocidal ideology. The ongoing crimes could already be qualified as crimes against humanity and there are now signs that the crisis could lead to acts of genocide. This crisis demands a strong response from the UN, notably through the deployment of a UN police and an international commission of inquiry to prevent mass atrocities.

Since April 2015, 700 people have allegedly been killed, 4,300 have been arbitrarily detained, and several hundred people (800 according to some sources) have been forcily disappeared.  Hundreds of other people have been tortured and dozens of women have been sexually assaulted. As a result of the conflict in Burundi, more than 250,000 Burundians have already fled the country. While the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is set to submit options for the deployment of UN elements by 15 April, FIDH and ITEKA, call upon the international community, including the UN Security Council, to deploy an international police task force of at least 500 police officers with the objective of protecting civilians, stopping ongoing lethal violence, and preventing further armed clashes. FIDH and Iteka believe that if these trends continue, the  African Union or the United Nations  must send a peacekeeping force  to end the violence and the repression of an increasingly genocidal nature.
During its mission, and in a forthcoming report, the FIDH delegation has documented and established the continuation of targeted and extra-judicial killings; of daily arbitrary arrests and detention; of the intensification of enforced disappearances and illegal detention facilities as well as torture. FIDH also witnessed the high level of surveillance and control on Burundian society by security forces, including by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and by the ruling party’s youth militias, the Imbunerakure.

“The situation is particularly worrying with the NIS – the main actor of the repression – that has infiltrated every layer of society and systematically tortures detainees. Parallel chains of command have been established within the security forces to orchestrate the repression. Part of the Imbunerakure1 militia is trained, armed, and deployed throughout the country and acts as the defacto security forces. Tensions within the army are extremely vivid. The international community must do everything in its power to protect civilians and prevent the situation from getting out of control,” said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. “The nature of the crimes witnessed by the FIDH delegation could very well fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Prosecutor, Ms Fatou Bensouda, should immediately open a preliminary examination of the situation in Burundi, which is state party to the ICC” he added.

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The evidence gathered by FIDH and ITEKA establishes that the Tustis are particularly targeted by the violence and due to  their ethnicity. They are more targeted during arrests, are subject to ethnic insults from security forces and systematically tortured during detention. The public and private messages of members of the ruling party CNDD-FDD or regime supporters are referring to Tutsis more and more openly as “enemies, “terrorists” and “genocidal insurrection”.2 Since the assassination on 22 March 2016, of Lieutenant-colonel Darius Ikurakure3, pillar of Burundi’s repressive system, targeted killings of soldiers belonging to the former Burundian Armed Forces – FAB (mainly composed of Tutsis) – have also increased.

According to information gathered by FIDH and ITEKA, more than 10 former Burundian army soldiers have been killed by unidentified men since the beginning of March. These elements are part of a larger context marked by an increasingly ethnic discourse by Burundian authorities and their supporters. The day before the funeral of the Lieutenant-Colonel Darius Ikurakure, messages were circulated on social media, including the following: “Dear HUTUS, wake up! Tomorrow we will bury another hero of the anti-Tutsi struggle, his excellency Lieutenant General Darius Ikurakure. Hutu officers and civilians will attend to thank him for his work. Come in number, and be careful and remember that he hero must not die alone, za mujeri sindumja muzincunge bibaye ngombwa mukore. Delende is Mike [watch those emaciated dogs, I am not a slave, if you must: work]. A word to the wise is enough! KORA [work]” circulated on social media. The term to “work” ,was used in Rwanda by the Hutu genocidal government to call upon the elimination of Tutsis. It was also used on 1 November 2015, by Burundian Senate President, Révérien Ndikuriyo, in front of his supporters and several Imbunerakure: “if you hear the signal with an order that it must end, emotions and tears will have no place !” and added “you must spray, you must exterminate those people (…) Wait for the day when we will say “work.”, you will see the difference!”. The conversation was not supposed to be recorded.

Burundian security forces involved in the repression are themselves made up of men who know how to execute orders and can “get things done,”  according to a source close to the security services. “They are over 95% Hutus” adds the source. About ten units, among which the NIS, the Riot Squad (BAE), the Special Battalion for Institution Protection (BSPI), the Institution Protection Agency (API), the Combat Engineering Battalion (BGC), the Mobile Group for Rapid Intervention (GMIR) and Special Research Police(PSR), are led by those loyal to the regime directly linked through parallel command chains, to the presidency, including the civilian cabinet. Those persons, responsible for the repression, could be incriminated for the crimes perpetrated directly by them or under their authority and should be subjected to criminal prosecution and individual sanctions by international institutions and influential diplomatic bodies.

Burundi-Museveni-Nkurunziza
“FIDH and ITEKA are very concerned about the ethnic nature of the repression in recent months, the authoritarian rhetoric and the use of preventive violence by authorities and their supporters. This reminds of the anti-Hutu genocidal massacres of the last  40 years. The authorities consider that they are the only representatives of the people and refer any kind of political, ethnic and social pluralism to a “them” against “us”, deadly for the country. We solemnly call upon Burundian authorities to uphold the Arusha Agreement by ending the repression, freeing the thousands of political detainees, and take part in an honest dialogue with the opposition and the independent civil society,” urged Anschaire Nikoyagiza, ITEKA President.

In response to the abuses of the regime, many men are joining the ranks of rebel armed groups (Red Tabara and FOREBU). These groups have carried out targeted attacks and killings against representatives of CNDD-FDD, members of law enforcement and Imbonerakure in Bujumbura and in the provinces, which have resulted in civilian casualties.. Indiscriminate attacks against civilians may amount to war crimes and   perpetrators must face justice.

Moreover, the documentation of these violations has become extremely dangerous. Human rights defenders, opponents and independent journalists still in Burundi are living mostly underground. They are followed and receive death threats. Almost every civil society leader, journalists and opposition member have   been forced to flee the country and those who remain, leaders or activists, continue to be subjected to threats or even attacks by men suspected of acting on the behalf of the regime, especially the Imbonerakure.

The disappearance of Marie-Claudette Kwizera, ITEKA treasurer, since her arrest by NIS elements on 10 December 2015 illustrates a worrying phenomenon that would concern hundreds of cases. Some sources report at least 800 people have been foricbly disappeared. The documentation of these disappearances is more and more difficult because of the increase of illegal detention facilities. The Burundian authorities and the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (CNIDH), seized by FIDH on the case of Marie-Claudette Kwizera and other cases of enforced disappearances, were unable to provide explanations or information on the fate of these people who are neither refugees nor officially detained.

“Given the risk of a new civil war and the perpetration of mass crimes, our organisations urge the international community to deploy an international police force in the country (of at least 500 officers) to ensure the protection of civilians and facilitate the holding of an inclusive political dialogue as soon as possible. Furthermore, we call on the Security Council to mandate an independent international commission to investigate the crimes perpetrated since April 2015, ” said Dismas Kitenge, FIDH Vice President.

On 1 April 2016, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2279 urging all parties to the crisis to agree on a timetable for negotiations. It also calls on the UN Secretary-General, to present by 15 April  to the Security Council “options” for the deployment of an international police force. In view of the security and human rights situation prevailing in the country, FIDH and ITEKA urge the UN to ensure that this task force has the mandate and the means to play a stabilizing, deterrent and monitoring role and to intervene in the event of the commission serious human rights violations.

France24 Youtube clip: Military coup in Burkina Faso – ousted interim president Michel Kafando back in power

Press Releases on the Coup d’etat in Burkina Faso

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It’s been a day with heavy deployment in Burkina Faso. The recent activities are still under way and the reports from the ground and they will continue to come. The Coup d’etat which is happening as we speak is strange especially thinking about the recent process that the nation has been under in recent months. That the military has all of a sudden carried out! The releases that are released are from certain big organization, multilateral organization and bigger nations that have a say in the world.

African Union statement:

“The Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, continues to follow with deep concern the situation in Burkina Faso following the abduction yesterday, in Ouagadougou, of the President of Faso, Michel Kafando, Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida and some members of his Government, by elements of the

Régiment de sécurité présidentielle (RSP), as well as today’s announcement of the appointment of “new authorities” (…)”She welcomes the unanimous condemnation by the international community of these acts, which constitute a serious threat to peace, stability and security in Burkina Faso, the region and the rest of the continent. She calls on all the AU Member States and the international community as a whole to ensure that this attempt to undermine the Transition is defeated. The AU considers the announcement by the military of the “dismissal” of President Michel Kafando and the attempt of substituting him with “new authorities” as null and void” (…)”The Chairperson of the Commission reiterates the imperative for the defense and security forces to operate under the control of the political authorities. She stresses that the repeated destabilization attempts by elements of the RSP since the beginning of the Transition highlight the need for security sector reform in Burkina Faso, as part of the efforts to deepen democracy and strengthen the rule of law in this country” (African Union, 2015).

Amnesty:

“The situation in Burkina Faso is deeply worrying. The interim president and all those detained must be immediately freed and their physical integrity protected,” said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s West Africa Researcher” (…)“The security forces must respect the right of the population to protest peacefully, and take action to avoid any more deaths or injuries,” (…)”The coup d’état comes just two days after the National Reconciliation and Reforms Commission recommended that the RSP be disbanded following accusations that its guards opened fire on unarmed protesters during last year’s anti-government protests” (Amnesty, 2015).

Freedom House:

“The Presidential Guard’s decision to detain key members of the transitional government weeks before the election is a direct threat to Burkina Faso’s transitional process,” said Vukasin Petrovic, director of Africa programs. “It is imperative these officials be released and citizens of Burkina Faso be given the opportunity to peacefully vote for their new government” (Freedom House, 2015).

South Africa;

“South Africa strongly condemns any attempt to seize power through extra-constitutional means or the resolution of political disagreements through the use of force. This incident is a serious violation of Burkina Faso’s Constitution and the country’s Transitional Charter. South Africa calls for the immediate release of Interim President Kafando, Prime Minister Zida and other leaders, and appeals to the people and all political leaders in the country to refrain from any violent activities that may further undermine peace, security and stability in the country. We urge all involved, including Burkina Faso’s security forces, to adhere to non-violence, and to debate issues in a peaceful and inclusive manner” (RSA, 2015).

United Nation:

“The United Nations stands firmly behind the transitional authorities and President Kafando.  The Secretary-General notes the strong support of the people of Burkina Faso for a peaceful transition and urges compliance with the transitional calendar, including the upcoming elections.”(United Nation, 2015).

U.S. Statement:

“The United States strongly condemns any attempt to seize power through extra-constitutional means or resolve internal political disagreements using force” (Kirby, 2015).

On a total different note:

“today confirms that operations at its Mana Mine in Burkina Faso have not been interrupted by the coup d’état that erupted yesterday in the Ouagadougou area” (…)”The Mana Mine is located 270 kilometers southwest and a five-hour road trip from the capital of Ouagadougou. We are closely monitoring the situation with our partners to ensure the continued safety and security of SEMAFO employees” (La Valliere, 2015).

Afterthough:

Hope this was some insights and hope when it has transgressed over the recent day. I have nearly ever read that governments and human rights organizations have been positive to a coup d’etat in any country. So that they are telling and condemning of the actions of the military should been seen as reasonable in any sense. The process of the matter and the reactions is normal. I and other just pray that this lead to security and safety for the public. The Burkinabe should get political and economic freedoms that they deserve, because there to many coup d’etat’s in the country. If they get this by yet another coup d’etat we cannot be sure of. That this will generate wealth or generate any kind of stabile government is not certain. Especially when they jail the ones that we’re leading the transitional government that was in place for the moment and time. And the outcome of this will lead to outrage and issues between the public and the new military government. The issues between the Burkina Faso and the outside world will also be in jeopardy and the legitimacy of the government would be hard task. Reasons for the coup and knowledge will be dropped later and the stories behind will surface. For now we will hope and pray that this will lead to something good. Though it’s hard to know since the ones grabbing guns and taking it by force isn’t often a way to a healthy democracy or peoples republics. The last one who stepped aside and made a difference this way was Ghana’s Jerry Rawlings. But he is a rarity in this world. Peace.

Reference:

African Union – ‘THE AFRICAN UNION REJECTS AS NULL AND VOID THE ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE MILITARY OF THE “DISMISSAL” OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE TRANSITION IN BURKINA FASO’ (17.09.2015) link:http://www.peaceau.org/uploads/auc-press-release-burkina-faso-17-9-2015-.pdf

Amnesty- ‘Army must free detained leaders in Burkina Faso and avoid violent repression of protests’ (17.09.2015) link: http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/army-must-free-detained-leaders-in-burkina-faso-and-avoid-violent-repression-of-protests

Kirby, John – ‘Recent Actions by Elements of the Presidential Guard in Burkina Faso’ (16.09.2015) link: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2015/09/246990.htm

LaValliere, Robert – ‘Business as Usual at SEMAFO’s Mana Mine in Burkina Faso’ (17.09.2015) link: http://www.canadianminingjournal.com/press-releases/story.aspx?id=1003706346

Freedom House – ‘Burkina Faso: President and PM Detained Ahead of Vote’ (16.09.2015) link: https://freedomhouse.org/article/burkina-faso-president-and-pm-detained-ahead-vote

RSA – ‘South African Government expresses concern over the Republic of Burkina Faso’ (17.09.2015)

UN – SG/SM/17080-AFR/3208: ‘Outraged over Reported Detention of Burkina Faso Leaders, Secretary-General Calls for Immediate Release’ (16.09.2015) link: http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sgsm17080.doc.htm

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