Burundians protest EU sanctions and aid cuts, son-in-law of prominent rights activist killed in grenade attack

Hundreds of Burundian protestors sitting at the European Union (EU), and Belgian Embassies in Bujumbura

Hundreds of Burundian protestors sitting at the European Union (EU), and Belgian Embassies in Bujumbura

“We want the sanctions taken against our military officers to be suspended because they are unfair,” this was the message sent by thousands of Burundians who marched across the country in support of the government and the military.

The demonstrators were protesting against recent sanctions by the European Union on 3 government and military officials for their role in the current political crisis.

In the capital Bujumbura several hundreds of people led by members of the ruling CNDD-FDD gathered at Arts Palace and marched to the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

Angry but largely peaceful protestors also made a stopover before the Embassies of Belgium and the European Union where they sat and stood for a while displaying placards with the messages “NO TO NEOCOLONIALISM” and “YOU SHOULD RESPECT THE SOVEREINITY OF BURUNDI,” among others.

In his address to the marchers Terence Ntahiraja, Deputy Home Affairs Minister stated the countrywide protests were aimed at calling on the European Union to release aid to Burundi and to cancel the sanctions.

The deputy minister urged the EU to refrain from meddling in Africa’s political affairs in general and Burundi’s in particular.

Mr. Ntahiraja also appealed to European countries hosting suspected coup plotters to extradite them to Burundi to face justice or prosecute them wherever they are.

“We all know that when there is a coup attempt, suspects must be tried according to the law, so they should not keep these criminals. On our side, when there is one of theirs involved in a criminal act, we send them back to their home country for prosecution, so they should also do the same,” Ntahiraja said.

The march was also organized in support of the army and police officers who were recently hit by EU travel ban and asset freeze for their alleged involvement in criminal acts in the current electoral crisis.

Also last week, Belgium, Burundi’s former colonial power announced it was suspending some aid to the Central African state in protest of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial third term.

In response to aid cuts, the Burundian government announced Friday it was suspending the Belgian Ambassador to Burundi.

An official source quoted by Radio France International said the measure was taken so as to preserve the good relations between Burundi and Belgium.

This was the same reason advanced by the Bujumbura authorities for expelling a Rwandan diplomat earlier this week.

Meanwhile, insecurity in Burundi and particular in the capital Bujumbura continues to be the main concern for the residents.

On Friday morning, Pascal Nshimirimana, son-in-law of the prominent human rights activist, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, was killed during a grenade attack against his car by unknown assailants.
He was driving home from work in the northern neighborhood of Ngagara.

Rights activist Mbonimpa, himself survived an assassination in August when he was seriously shot by unidentified gunmen. He is currently undergoing treatment in Belgium.

Nshimirimana’s killing followed another attack on the offices of a Rwandan-run transport company, Volcano in Bujumbura Thursday night, yet another sign relations between Kigali and Bujumbura are tense.