A new statement issued by Amnesty International contains evidence that dozens of civilians killed by the Burundian security services in December were buried in mass graves.
The East African country has been wracked by political violence since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a unconstitutional third term in April 2015.
Since then, more than 400 people have been killed in state sponsored murders and clashes with the police. At least 230,000 are estimated to have fled the country in fear for their life.
The new evidence includes satellite images, video footage, and witness accounts confirming at least 5 mass graves in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi.
“These images suggest a deliberate effort by the authorities to cover up the extent of the killings by their security forces and to prevent the full truth from coming out,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn, and the Great Lakes.
Researchers working for Amnesty International were in the city when the Burundian security forces killed 21 men. The researchers recalled finding pools of blood but no bodies, indicating that the bodies were moved from the scene.
This new information comes ahead of a vote by the African Union (AU) on the deployment of 5,000 peacekeepers to the country, despite the vehement opposition to the deployment by the Burundian government.
The peacekeeping mission, dubbed the African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi (MAPROBU), will need a two-thirds majority in order to be deployed.
President Nkurunziza has called upon Burundians to “stand up and fight” if the AU peacekeepers do enter the country.
Last week, in an effort to calm international fears regarding ethnic cleansing, President Nkurunziza assured observers from the United Nations (UN) that “there will not be a genocide” and that Burundi is “99% secure”.
Due to President Nkurunziza’s lobbying efforts there are rumors that the peacekeeping mission may be downgraded to an observer operation.
Many African heads of state are also wary of the precedent of sending a peacekeeping force to a country over the objections of the government. This sentiment could mean that MAPROBU will not gather the sufficient two-thirds majority to be deployed.