The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project strongly condemns the assassination of Welly Fleury Nzitonda, the son of renowned human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa. He was arrested this morning as he was travelling to Mutakura, one of the “contested” neighbourhoods of Bujumbura. He was reportedly beaten, and his dead body was found several hours later not far from the location of the arrest.
The assassination takes place on the last day given to the opposition to hand in their weapons after an ultimatum made by President Pierre Nkuruziza on 2 November. Since Monday, inhabitants of the “contested” neighbourhoods have been fleeing en masse, fearing the crackdown that will follow when the ultimatum ends.
“The government of Burundi is responsible for orchestrating a violent and vicious crackdown on human rights defenders and all involved in the Anti-third term protests,” says Hassan Shire, Executive Director of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. “The international community, and particularly African leaders, have a responsibility to address the situation and to prevent a further escalation of violence in days to come.”
On 9 October, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa’s son in law was assassinated when two men on a motorcycle threw grenades at him outside his house. Pierre Claver Mbonimpa himself narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on 3 August. He was shot in the face and the neck as he drove home from work, and had to be evacuated to Brussels to receive medical treatment.
The pattern of attacks against human rights defenders, their organisations, and their families has worsened since the failed coup d’état on 13 May 2015.
On 4 November, the General Prosecutor informed the non-governmental organisation Maison Shalom, which focuses on community development and the rights of children, that its bank accounts had been frozen. Marguerite Barankitse, the director of the NGO, had spoken on Radio Canada on 2 November 2015, sounding the alarm at the on-going crisis in Burundi:
“Never has there been such a sanguinary regime in Burundi. They are mutilating our youths; they are even castrating them. They are forced to sit in acid, they are killed, their entire families decimated. Entire neighbourhoods are locked in. These people are not even political opponents, all they did was say that the president’s third mandate was unconstitutional,” she told the reporter.
In April 2015, President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his decision to run for a third term, a move Burundian political opposition groups and civil society cited as unconstitutional and in breach of peace agreements. Mass protests followed and were focused predominantly in the capital, Bujumbura. A failed coup d’état on 13 May 2015 heightened tensions, and after private radio stations were closed by the authorities, many journalists and human rights defenders fled the country. The space for human rights defenders to operate became highly limited in an increasingly volatile security context.
EHAHRDP calls upon:
– The African Commission for People and Human’s Rights to rapidly set up a commission to investigate the widespread human rights abuses taking place in Burundi, as mandated by the African Union Peace and Security Council on 17 October 2015;
– The United Nations Security Council to urgently hold a meeting to address the deteriorating situation in Burundi;
– The United Nations General Assembly to reconsider the rights of membership of Burundi to the UN Human Rights Council, in light of the State’s complete disregard for human rights and the lives of its citizens.
For more information, please contact :
Hassan Shire, Executive Director, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project on: [email protected] or +256 772 753 753 (English)
Clementine de Montjoye, Advocacy & Research Officer, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project on: [email protected] or +256 752 183 305/ +33 6 58 56 26 50 (French and English)