By Millicent Zighe
Opponents of the Burundi government are being arrested on trumped up charges, according to a Burundian human rights organization.
Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture in Burundi (ACAT) in their latest report indicate that at least 12 people have been arrested in the month of July. Members of the Agathon Rwasa led opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL) are the primary target of the crackdown. The extent of the crisis is not known as many of these cases often go unreported due to fear of harassment and intimidation by members of Imbonerakure militia youth group.
ACAT consists of 72 Burundian human rights defenders who monitor and document incidents of human rights violations. Cases are reported anonymously through text messages and calls by eyewitnesses and human rights defenders. ACAT then verifies the information before disseminating it to the public.
In one incident, Jerede Niyonzima was arrested by the Imbonerakure at his home in Rutonganikwa hill, Buhiga commune on June 13, 2019. Witnesses reported that Niyonzima belonged to the opposition party CNL. The reason for his arrest remains unclear.
On June 21, 2019 members of Imboneralure arrested Cleophace Nkurunzinza on Rutonganikwa hill in Buhiga commune. An order for his arrest was allegedly issued by Felicien Ngendakumana, the chief of the area after the victim’s son fled the country. Nkurunzinza happens to be the head local of CNL.
Cecile Ahishakiye, Fiston Bizimana and Felicien Niyonzima were arrested by National Intelligence Service agents in Bururi Province on June 24, 2019. The three were charged for undermining the security of the country after they took photographs in the provincial capital. The victims were released the following day after upon orders of Minister of Justice Jean Bosco Ndikumana.
Two days later, Philibert Ndihokubwayo who happens to be an employee of Burundian revenue office (OBR) and CNL supporter was arrested on his way home at Gasenyi Gihosha. The reason for his arrest remains unclear.
Imbonerakure has continued to torture people declining to join the ruling party ahead of next year’s election. Locals have now been forced to avail information about CNL activities and its members or face dire consequences. This climate of fear has forced some opposition members to flee to neighbouring countries
With the Justice system in the country being reduced to a tool of torture against dissidents in the country, many government critics still continue to languish in cells. Further, Journalists and human rights defenders have also faced the wrath of Imbonerakure for speaking out against Nkurunzinza’s regime. Freedom of press is being assailed in the country as the government has revoked licenses for almost all media houses in the country.
Human rights monitors have repeatedly blamed the government for abetting human rights violations in the country. Burundi has dismissed the claims calling them “lies from far away”