Bujumbura, Burundi – Burundi’s post-colonial history is stained by civil war, massacres, and two genocides.
In 2005, following a peace accord, Pierre Nkurunziza was elected president by parliament, and in 2010 secured a second term in a national plebiscite.
Last year, on April 25, the CNDD-FDD, Burundi’s ruling party, announced Nkurunziza as their candidate for the forthcoming presidential elections. This sparked widespread protests across the capital, as demonstrators denounced the bid for a third term as unconstitutional. A heavy-handed police response further increased the protests, and was followed by a failed military coup in mid-May.
The authorities’ response to the “terrorists”, as it has labelled the protesters, has become even more brutal, with widespread repression in opposition neighbourhoods.
Last week Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations human rights chief, warned of “a sharp increase in the use of torture and ill-treatment in Burundi”. He said that hundreds had been tortured or ill-treated by security forces, and Reuters reports that at least 400 people have been killed since the protests began – 90 people were killed in a single day in December.
Grenade attacks have targeted both civilians and security forces since last year, and “rebels” make infrequent incursions into the interior. Meanwhile, more than 250,000 people have fled the country; most now live in refugee camps in neighbouring Rwanda and Tanzania.
The UN Security Council has twice visited Burundi since the crisis erupted, but no solution to the violence has been found. The UN is expecting the number of refugees to reach at least 330,000 by the end of the year.