29 April 2016

Burundi: Five Killed, Arusha Mediation Delayed

Photo: HCR/Benjamin Loyseau
Burundi refugees in Tanzania.

Five people were gunned down in a bar in Burundi's capital Bujumbura, police said on Friday, the latest in a series of attacks linked to President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial third term. Meanwhile, former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, who is leading mediation efforts to help end the political crisis, said that Monday's meeting in Arusha would be delayed.

"Postponement will provide time to the facilitator to make further consultations with stakeholders and all concerned parties," a statement from Mkapa's office on Friday said. "It is foreseen that the dialogue will take place during the third week of May 2016."

Four civilians and a soldier were killed and three other people wounded in Bujumbura late on Thursday, according to a police spokesman who spoke to the AFP news agency.

The attack coincides with warnings from the UN human rights chief about a spike in violence over the past month.

"We're witnessing an increasing number of targeted assassinations," Cécile Pouilly, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told RFI on Thursday, ahead of the latest killings.

"It really seems to be worsening on the ground," said Pouilly, who outlined a tripling in the number of political motivated killings in April, compared to the previous month.

"Sometimes it happens in the streets of Bujumbura during the daytime, other times they are what seem to be ambushes," she said, saying that UN human rights officers had recorded 513 people killed since the beginning of the crisis. A death toll that does not take into account the latest killings on Thursday evening.

General Athanase Kararuza, a security advisor to one of Burundi's vice presidents, was killed earlier in the week as he dropping his daughter off at school. While Human Rights Minister Martin Nivyabandi was seriously wounded on Sunday in a grenade attack that left him seriously wounded.

"Human rights violations have been, and remain to be, a prominent feature of the current political crisis," said Solomon Dersso, Commissioner, African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), who spoke to RFI on Thursday.

"Continuation of human rights violations aggravate the insecurity and thereby creates a situation that frustrates the efforts for achieving a peaceful solution," said Dersso, speaking by telephone from Addis Ababa following the presentation of a report on human rights in Burundi to the African Union's Peace and Security Council.

The report from the ACHPR covers the human rights situation from the beginning of the crisis in April 2015 to 13 December, when their team completed a week-long fact finding mission.

The investigative team was coincidentally in Burundi when at least 87 people were killed in a series of coordinated attacks. This displayed the "deadliest incidents of violence", according to Dersso, highlighting the "fears and concerns about widespread violations of human rights".

Former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa was originally expected to lead a new round of mediation from 2-6 May in Arusha and had said on Twitter that he expected "all stakeholders" to be present.

"As far as the peace process is concerned, it's important that those who have major disagreements that led to crisis, are the ones who have to be principally involved," said Dersso, when asked about the composition of the groups involved in the mediation.

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