BUJUMBURA, Burundi — U.S. State of Department warned Americans on Sunday to urgently leave Burundi as political unrest has been leading to increasing violence between security troops and opponents of President Pierre Nkurunziza, who was reelected in July for his third period. An escalation of violence occurred on Friday left over a hundred mortal victims, marking the worst incident since the crisis started in April when Nkurunziza announced his candidacy.
Even though the persistent gunfire and grenade attacks do not usually target foreigners, non-emergency U.S. government personnel, as well as their families and dependents, will be evacuated as a precaution, according to a travel warning issued by the State of Department. “Demonstrations, gatherings, and even sporting events that are intended to be peaceful can turn violent without advance warning,” the statement reads. Only limited emergency services from the U.S. Embassy will be available for Americans in Burundi.
Last Friday unidentified violent groups constituted by more than 150 armed men attacked three army facilities. Spokesman Col. Gaspard Baratuza declared on Saturday that 79 of them were killed, whereas 8 security officials from the army and the police died in the incident. Baratuza said that 21 security agents were injured and 45 members of the unidentified squad are under arrest.
Once the fighting came to an end, official security squads headed to some neighborhoods that night and shot to death at least 28 people after dragging them from their homes. Many of the bodies were found with their hands bound behind their backs. Senior researcher at Human Rights Watch Carine Tertsakian commented the army’s actions had no justification and that those responsible should be held accountable. Tertsakian added that an extensive investigation should be implemented in collaboration with foreign experts, since the Burundian justice system is known for corruption and politicization.
Anschaire Nikoyagize, the president of the Burundian League for Human Rights, warned that the current situation could lead to another civil war and denounced security forces for acting against everyone who does not agree with Nkurunziza’s third term. Many Burundians, as well as the international community, have accused the president’s reelection of unconstitutional and a clear violation of a peace agreement, which put an end to a civil war that left 300,000 people dead from 1993 to 2006.
Since April over 300 people have been killed in the central equatorial African nation, whilst an estimated of 215,000 have fled Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world.
Belgium, Burundi’s former colonial power, in November warned its citizens to leave the country due to increasing violence between supporters and opponents of the government.
Source: USA Today