Amnesty International has called for an immediate investigation into violence in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura on December 11th.
This is considered the bloodiest wave of violence since April when the latest political and electoral controversy started.
The fighting began when masked gunmen attacked three different military installations in Bujumbura. The capital became paralyzed by the sound of small and heavy weapons fire for the remainder of the day.
The following day, on December 12th, the Burundian military announced that 79 “enemies” were killed, 45 were captured, along with several weapons. The military also admitted to losing 8 soldiers and police officers from the violence.
Amnesty International has questioned the Burundian military’s usage of the word “enemies” to described the 79 killed. The organization points out that there were several reports of fighting taking place far away from the three military stations allegedly attacked by masked gunmen.
In their statement, Amnesty International cites eyewitness testimony describing the indiscriminate killing from the Burundian military. One resident of Bujumbura described the shooting of a 15-year old boy who had only attempted to flee shooting in his neighborhood.
“He was terrified by the heavy shooting in front of the house so he ran out the back door to go hide in the bathroom,” the boy’s mother told Amnesty International. “He hadn’t even taken two steps before he was hit: in his head, his left arm, and his side. He died on the spot”.
Others killed by the military included a disabled man, a teenage egg seller, a domestic worker, a teacher and a man who sold mobile phones.
"These killings are a horrific illustration of the growing human rights crisis facing Burundi and the need for the region and the rest of the international community to act vigorously. This should include supporting the urgent mission of independent experts to investigate crimes under international law and human rights violations as soon as possible,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
The small East African country has become increasingly unstable since President Pierre Nkurunziza began his unconstitutional bid for a third term in April and then won a highly controversial election in July. Thus far more than 200 people have died due to the political violence.
Many international experts are warning that the opposition and President Nkurunziza must begin negotiations or face a repeat of the country’s brutal civil war which lasted from 1993-2005 and cost more than 300,000 lives.