Burundi Crisis: victims are buried in mass graves, says Amnesty International

A truck dumping dead bodies in a mass grave in Burundi in December 2015.

A truck dumping dead bodies in a mass grave in Burundi in December 2015.

As African leaders gather at African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to deliberate on Burundi among other issues, rights advocacy group Amnesty International has claimed Burundian it has obtained satellite images corroborating eye witness reports that the Burundian military killed and buried dozens of people in mass graves near the capital Bujumbura last month.

“Before and after images and video footage clearly show five possible mass graves in the Buringa area, on the outskirts of Bujumbura,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

According to Amnesty International, resident eye witnesses in Bujumbura’s opposition strongholds  reported the security forces had killed and buried young men earlier last month when gunmen allegedly attacked military installations in the capital. Shortly after the attack on the military barracks in Bujumbura, 87 bodies were discovered on the streets and ditches around the capital. It’s these bodies the residents said were buried in mass graves and Amnesty International says Satellite images confirm eye witness testimonies.

The government and security forces in Bujumbura maintain all those who were killed in the aftermath of the attacks on military installations were “assailants.”

“The imagery, dating from late December and early January, shows disturbed earth consistent with witness accounts,” AI revealed.

“These images suggest a deliberate effort by the authorities to cover up the extent of the killings by their security forces and to prevent the full truth from coming out,” Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes said.

Amnesty International further appeals African Union leaders to exert pressure on the authorities in Bujumbura to facilitate unfettered investigations into the killings.

“African leaders gathering at the AU summit must call on the Burundian government to grant international investigators access to all suspected grave sites and launch an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into the killings and why most families were given no opportunity to retrieve and bury their dead,” Mr. Wanyeki stressed.

The leaders in Ethiopia are seeking to convince President Pierre Nkurunziza and his government to cooperate with the African Union and support the proposal to deploy 5,000 peacekeeping troops to the conflict-ravaged nation in an effort to protect civilians.

Bujumbura has forcefully rejected the AU proposal and President Nkurunziza has openly threatened to attack the “invading troops” if the AU goes ahead and deploys troops without Burundi’s approval.

Last month, gruesome and graphic images and footages of dead bodies of young men killed execution style with arms tied behind their backs circulated  on social media stirring outrage and condemnation. It was after these images that the AU Peace and Security Council passed a resolution to deploy 5000 troops to Burundi to stem the deadly violence.

The conflict in Burundi has so far claimed nearly 500 people and forced about 250,000 to flee to regional countries.

Despite unrelenting pressure by regional leaders and the international community, talks between stakeholders in the conflict have stalled.