Military


Burundi - 2015-201? Civil War

In 1972, the Tutsi-led military slaughtered Hutus, especially those who could read. Decades later, Hutu rebels took revenge by systematically murdering Tutsi peasants. The new Hutu-led government was just as corrupt as the old Tutsi-led regime.

The presidential election was held on 21 July 2015. After running unopposed, incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza was declared the winner of the presidential polls, garnering according to the official results 69.41% of the votes. An ex-rebel and born-again Christian, Nkurunziza believes that he has divine backing to rule. According to Burundi's Electoral Commission, approximately 74 percent of Burundi's 3.8 million registered voters cast their vote in the election. Opposition groups rejected the polls after boycotting the vote, saying the prevailing conditions were not conducive for free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections.

South African President Jacob Zuma, who was a facilitator of the 2000 peace agreement that ended Burundi’s 12-year civil war that left 300,000 dead, landed on 25 February 2016 in Bujumbura where he led the AU High-Level Panel, which had been mandated to try resolve the Burundi crisis.

Between 800 and 900 people were reported to have been killed since April 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced a controversial decision to run for a third term, which he won in contested elections in July 2015.

Alain Guillaume Bunyoni is the Minister of Public Security in Burundi and had overseen the Government’s internal security efforts, including those of Burundi’s National Police (PNB), an entity whose members have engaged in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Burundi. Under Bunyoni, the PNB conducted operations in cooperation with the Imbonerakure youth militia to intimidate and silence those who oppose or who are perceived to oppose the Government of Burundi.

MSD opposition leaders said they lost hundreds of people — perhaps even a thousand — over the year after the local elections in May of 2010 in a government-sponsored campaign called “Safisha," which means “to clean."

By 04 August 2015 fear of civil war breaking out in Burundi was growing as violence and human rights violations in the country increased. The Office of the UN Human Rights Office said it was extremely worried about the situation in which activists and journalists were being targeted by agents of the country’s national intelligence agency. More than 600 people had been arrested and remain in detention without charge, some of them since April.

A UN special investigator warned September 15, 2015 that Burundi could slip back into open warfare unless the international community takes urgent preventive action. Pablo de Greiff, a UN special investigator on mass violations, said much has happened since he visited Burundi in December — and none of it good. He said Burundi had turned away from the peaceful path it had followed since the 2000 Arusha agreement that ended the country's civil war.

In a speech on 29 October that received much attention, Reverien Ndikuriyo, the president of the senate, used inflammatory and threatening language that could constitute incitement to violence. Some of the language used was very similar to the language used before and during the Rwandan genocide.

On 02 November President Nkurunziza issued a public warning to Burundian citizens who had weapons illegally to surrender them within 5 days or they would be ‘punished in accordance with the anti terrorist law and fought like enemies of the nations.’ Security forces have authorisation from 9 November to use all means at their disposal to find weapons and re-establish security. The ruling party has also issued statements expressing anti-western views, and particularly anti-Belgian views.

Political violence persisted throughout Burundi in the aftermath of the country's contested elections, an attempted coup d'etat and the debate over the President standing for a third term. By December 2015 armed groups operated in Burundi and gunfire and grenade attacks occurred with frequency. Government command and control of the armed forces and security services is not complete. Police and military checkpoints throughout the country have the potential to seriously restrict freedom of movement. Demonstrations, gatherings, and even sporting events that are intended to be peaceful can turn violent without advance warning.

On 12 December 2015 Burundi's army said at least 87 people were killed Friday in the capital, Bujumbura, in what it described as coordinated attacks on three military installations by unknown gunmen. A military spokesman said Saturday that the dead included 79 "enemies," along with eight soldiers and policemen. He said 45 others had been captured in daylong firefights that extended into the next morning.

By mid-2015 more than 300 people had been killed in Burundi since April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans for a third term in office. The capital Bujumbura had been riven by almost daily skirmishes.

On December 13, 2015 the US Department of State warned US citizens against all travel to Burundi and recommended that US. citizens currently in Burundi depart as soon as it is feasible to do so. As a result of continuing violence, the Department of State ordered the departure of dependents of US government personnel and non-emergency US government personnel from Burundi on December 13.

On 18 December 2015 the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned four individuals, Gervais Ndirakobuca, Leonard Ngendakumana, Joseph Mathias Niyonzima, and Alexis Sinduhije, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13712 for being responsible for or complicit in or for engaging in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Burundi. Joseph Mathias Niyonzima supervised and provided support to elements of the Imbonerakure pro-government militia, a group that has been linked to the arrest and torture of individuals suspected of opposing the Nkurunziza regime. He had also been involved in plans to assassinate prominent opposition leaders.

Burundi's 12-year civil war, which ended in 2005, was fought along ethnic lines. While the unrest so far had mostly been political, Western and regional powers feared prolonged violence could cleave open old ethnic rifts and further destabilize a volatile region still scarred by the 1994 Rwanda genocide. More than 220,000 Burundians had fled the violence to neighboring Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Congo.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein opened an emergency session of the U.N. Human Rights Council 16 December 2015 by describing escalating atrocities, intimidation, and hate speech in Burundi, saying it harked back to that country’s "deeply troubled, dark and horrendously violent" past. “Burundi is at bursting point, on the very cusp of a civil war... The time for piecemeal responses and fiddling around the edges is over. The situation in Burundi demands a robust, decisive response from the international community," Zeid said.

The African Union authorized deployment of peacekeepers to troubled Burundi and gave the government a four-day deadline to accept the troops. A communique issued 18 December 2015 by the AU Peace and Security Council said the peacekeeping force would have up to 5,000 soldiers and police. It authorized the deployment for an initial period of six months. The council condemned recent violence in Burundi, including attacks on military barracks in the capital last week that reportedly left 87 people dead. The communique said the AU would not allow Burundi to descend into widespread violence that could affect the wider region.

Neither rebel organisation - Resistance for the Rule of Law (Resistance pour l'Etat de droit: RED-Tabara) or the Republican Forces of Burundi (Les Forces Republicaines du Burundi: FOREBU) - publicly claimed responsibility for any attacks in March 2016.

In April, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented the Security Council with three options for Burundi: a force of about 3,000 police; 228 individual police officers; or a smaller deployment of between 20 and 50 police. At the time, he said that only the first option of 3,000 could “provide some degree of physical protection to the population against increased threats."

Paving the way for enhanced United Nations engagement in Burundi, the Security Council on 01 April 2016 requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to explore with the Government and regional actors options for a police deployment “to increase UN capacity to monitor the security situation, advance the rule of law and promote respect for human rights" in the country.

Unanimously adopting a French-led resolution, the Council reiterated “its deep concern about the persistence of violence in Burundi, as well as the persisting political impasse in the country, and the attendant serious humanitarian consequences," and requested Ban, in consultation with the Burundi Government and in coordination with the African Union (AU), to present within 15 days options for deploying a UN police component.

By early 2016 at least 400 people had been killed and almost 3,500 had been arrested in a campaign of political repression and violent unrest. By February 2016 between 800 and 900 people are reported to have been killed since April 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced a controversial decision to run for a third term, which he won in contested electionsin July 2015.

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 10 February 2016 that there were credible reports that Burundian refugees in Rwanda were being recruited to participate in armed attacks on the Burundian government. Burundi Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe said Burundi had been sounding the alarm about Rwanda for months. Rwandan President Paul Kagame dismissed as 'childish' a UN panel report that Burundian refugees had been recruited at a refugee camp in eastern Rwanda in May and June 2015 and given two months of military training to remove President Nkurunziza from power.

The Burundian government welcomed the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2279, which called for the deployment of a UN police contingent to monitor the security situation in Burundi. Burundian Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe said April 04, 2016 President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government has always been open to an international presence in Burundi and would welcome the deployment of a UN police contingent as long as they are not UN troops.

Burundi and neighboring Rwanda have long been politically at odds, with Burundi frequently accusing Rwanda of meddling in its affairs. Most recently, Bujumbura alleged that Kigali recruited Burundian refugees to overthrow Nkurunziza’s government. The presidents of the two countries are from the two rival ethnic groups that clashed in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

The UN Security Council on July 29, 2016 authorized a 228-member international police force to deploy to Burundi to prevent human rights violations and provide stability for an intra-Burundian dialogue. The council said it hoped the police presence would help create a positive atmosphere for substantive talks so the country could move beyond its political impasse. “Given an increase in violence and tension, the Security Council must have eyes and ears on the ground to predict and ensure that the worst does not occur in Burundi," said French Ambassador François Delattre, whose delegation drafted the resolution.



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