Burundi officers flee country over fears of repression

Deserters feared repression over their ethnicity and perceived support of the opposition amid political unrest.

    At least 10 officers from Burundi's army and police force have reportedly fled the country since the beginning of this month amid ongoing repression in the country.

    The group includes several senior officers.

    Burundian security expert Gratien Rukindikiza put the total number of deserters at 13 and said they had fled owing to fears of repression because of their ethnicity or for being perceived as supporters of the country's political opposition.

    Human rights activists say the Hutu-dominated government of President Pierre Nkurunziza is increasingly repressing ethnic Tutsis.

    Burundi has been in turmoil since Nkurunziza announced last year that he would seek a third term in office despite a constitutional two-term limit. His election victory in July 2015 unleashed a wave of political violence in which hundreds have been killed.

    In May, a court handed life sentences to 21 people, including senior military officers, who had been implicated in a failed coup attempt against Nkurunziza. Dozens of soldiers have been arrested on charges of supporting the opposition, Rukindikiza, the security expert, said.

    Many of the detainees belong to the minority Tutsi ethnic group.  

    Burundian army spokesman Gaspard Baratuza denied that the deserters had fled owing to ethnic repression or security fears, and said they were being manipulated by the opposition.

    Their departure follows that of Colonel Adolphe Manirakiza, a former spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, who fled Burundi in April.


    READ MORE: Burundi rejects UN police deployment amid violence


     

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    'Money can't buy us': Mapping Canada's oil pipeline battle

    'Money can't buy us': Mapping Canada's oil pipeline battle

    We travel more than 2,000km and visit communities along the route of the oil pipeline that cuts across Indigenous land.

    Women under ISIL: The wives

    Women under ISIL: The wives

    Women married to ISIL fighters share accounts of being made to watch executions and strap explosives to other women.

    Diplomats for sale: How an ambassadorship was bought and lost

    Diplomats for sale: How an ambassadorship was bought and lost

    The story of Ali Reza Monfared, the Iranian who tried to buy diplomatic immunity after embezzling millions of dollars.