The Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana, minister of the Unitarian Church of Burundi, provides a reaction to the recent UN Human Rights report following their investigation into events in Burundi.
Since April 2015, when people massively took to the streets to oppose a controversial third presidential term, the brutality and cruelty of the Nkurunziza regime have left many people speechless. The first young boy killed, KOMEZAMAHORO was 16 years old. He was shot hands in the air, begging the police to spare his life. His death on Sunday April 26th 2015 was a strong signal that the regime was determined to use big means to silence everyone. A few weeks later on the day a military coup was attempted, all the independent radio stations mostly belonging to non profits were burned down because they were the last critical voices in the country and could inform the population in a timely manner.
The UN human rights council findings are just sickening. This recent report by experts on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council only came to reinforce what Burundians have been saying all along that many, too many, have become victims of. Hundreds of thousands of refugees in neighboring countries, dozens of mass graves probably containing the many people who went missing and are uncounted for, hundreds of people who were found dead after being arrested by government forces, and thousands in jails across Burundi under degrading conditions.
The Burundi regime figured that, following the recent report of the UN Human Rights Council and the subsequent resolution to investigate more in order to determine whether human crimes were committed, its crimes committed openly and arrogantly would no longer pass.
The government reaction was quick. The Burundi government put on hold the cooperation with the UN Human Rights office in the country and asked the office to stop all its activities. As if that move was not enough, on Wednesday October 12th, the government sent to the lower chamber of the parliament a proposed bill to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC). The bill was approved with an overwhelming majority by acclamation! The same day, the bill was sent to the senate for approval and was unanimously approved and sent the president to sign it into law. There is all likelihood that he will rubber-stamp it.
In the light of what is happening, with an army divided along ethnic lines, people ransomed in exchange for survival (they come, arrest people say 100 people and they ask everyone to pay money and let them go back home; they always keep 3 or 4 people who are never seen again), thousands of people in jail and a regime which is not accountable to anyone (not to its people, not to the organizations Burundi is part of), the suppression of all inconvenient witnesses, the time is ripe for even more violence and cruelty.
Burundians voices need to be heard and for them to be heard they need to be raised in many and diverse forums.
It may be easy to sit in the corner and lament but that would not be helpful. Both the UN, other countries and other concerned parties need to stand up, put economic, moral and political pressure on the Burundi regime. There is need of a peacekeeping mission with a clear mandate to protect the people as peace talks take the time needed to set the foundations for a lasting cohabitation between all the ethnic groups in their diversity.
As for the people both inside and outside Burundi, there is need for empowerment in the form of skills development through education, developing networks of allies as well as showing the true colours of the Burundi regime. This is one of the many wonderful ways to resist oppressive regimes.
I hope UUs around the world will continue to be our allies.
- Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana