Ngozi, Burundi – Protests against incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in Burundi’s upcoming elections plunged this tiny nation in the heart of Africa into crisis in April. The protests have been repressed since a failed coup attempt, but the country is now gripped by a spate of grenade attacks.
Pascal Nyiabenda was working in a small bar in the town of Ngozi in northern Burundi last Sunday, when a man threw a grenade onto the roof of the building at around 7pm. Pascal escaped unharmed, but two of his siblings, Chantal and Claver, both clients in the bar, were killed by the blast. The corrugated metal roof did little to protect them. Two days later, having just been ejected from the hospital where they had received treatment, Lièce Niyunkomezi, 15, and Fidélité Niyonsenga, 26, sat on the dirt outside the same bar, dressings on their faces. Fidelité had just bought her first beer that Sunday, and Lièce was babysitting in the shack next door. Shrapnel cut into their bodies.
Gunfire and blasts have become a regular nightly occurence in the capital, Bujumbura, often followed by early morning raids by police in opposition neighbourhoods, searching for weapons.
Despite calls from the UN to further postpone the contentious elections, Burundi is set to vote in their parliamentarians on Monday, as opposition groups call for a boycott of the plebiscite, not least because they say they are unable to campaign, due to intimidation of their members.