Burundi conflict killed nearly 500 in 2015, says rights commission

Burundi police and military battling protestors against President Nkurunziza's controversial third term bid

Burundi police and military battling protestors against President Nkurunziza’s controversial third term bid last year.

Burundi Independent National Human Rights Commission (CNIDH), has revealed that 481 people were killed in 2015 by the ongoing turmoil in Burundi.

The country’s independent human rights commission told the national assembly on Thursday, that the victims died between April and December 2015.

The current turmoil was triggered by the R\ruling party CNDD-FDD’s decision in April last year to choose President Pierre Nkurunziza as its flagbearer in the presidential election.

Speaking to journalists shortly after a lengthy grilling by members of the National Assembly, Jean-Baptiste Baribonekeza, the chairman of the commission said that hundreds of people were arbitrarily detained, tortured and killed in last year’s protests against the president’s third term bid.

“We identified 439 cases of people who have been abusively arrested or detained. We also found at least 27 cases of alleged torture on individuals and 19 cases of people who were victims of abduction or disappearance, and other acts of relatively constituting less serious violations,” he said.

Mr. Baribonekeza appealed to the judiciary in Burundi to investigate torture cases and bring the perpetrators to justice.

“Torture is a very specific offense. We can only speak of torture on acts that have been committed by State agents. Now the CNIDH explained in this report the circumstances and provided other information relating to these allegations and it is now up to the Department of Justice to take up these cases to investigate, verify, and then determine exactly the perpetrators,” he urged.

The Chairman of Burundi Independent National Human Rights Commission also said last year’s protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term bid were illegal and that led to unnecessary loss of life and property, but did not fault protestors in any way.

“As you know, the events that were triggered in April and continued in May were not allowed. Neither politicians nor the leaders of civil society who organized this movement requested the necessary authorization. So the National Human Rights Commission already considers that it was an illegal activity,” Mr. Baribonekeza stated.

Analysts say this latest report will further prompt more calls for the government to not only investigate human rights abuses committed by members of the military and police but also expedite efforts to sit down with other players and engage in constructive dialogue to end the deadly violence and political instability.

Burundi has been embroiled in a political crisis since April last year when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his controversial third term bid, igniting massive protests particularly in the capital Bujumbura. The protests escalated into deadly violence which is still claiming lives of people today.

About 250, 000 people have fled to neighboring countries as refugees.

Despite pressure from regional leaders and the international community, there has been no progress on the dialogue front. Former Tanzanian leader, Bejamin Mkapa is the new facilitator in the stalled talks.