By Millicent Zighe
A report released by United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi (CoI) has revealed that a Marie-Claudette Kwizera, a member of International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) was targeted and killed because of her advocacy.
Kwizera who was also a treasurer of human rights organization Iteka League Claudette Kwizera disappeared on the evening of December 10, 2015.
Eyewitnesses reported that National Intelligence Service officers (SNR) descended on the activist and forced her into a vehicle near the Central Polyclinic of Bujumbura. She was then driven to an unknown location where she was executed. To date Marie’s family is waiting for justice. Many believe the perpetrators are under the protection of Burundi government.
Col findings have confirmed what Anschaire Nikoyagize had long been suspecting. The leader of Ligue Iteka believed that Kwizera had been killed and buried in one of Burundi’s mass graves. Days after she went missing, her family was asked by NIS agent named Dieudonne Bigirimana to pay a ransom of 3.5 million Burundian francs. The family complied however no information was provided about her whereabouts. The family later on filed a complaint resulting in Bigirimana’s arrest. The government has continued to deny involvement in her case.
Political temperatures have been high in the nation ever since President Pierre Nkurunzinza controversially won a third term. The ruling party in conjunction with the Imbonerakure Youth Group have waged a war of murder, torture, arbitrary arrests against anyone perceived to be against the ruling party.
In April this year, Germain Rukuki, a human rights defender was unlawfully sentenced to 32 years. He was charged with breach of state security. Following his conviction, United Nations raised concerns about the case however Burundi government did not respond. To date, Rukuki remains in prison after appealing his sentence.
In another instance, Jean Bigirimana, a journalist from the Burundian Independent weekly newspaper Iwacu went missing without a trace after he was abducted three years ago. It was alleged that NIS were responsible for his disappearance. National Human Rights Commission conducted an independent investigation into his disappearance however they were not able to locate him.
Burundi has banned International media houses like British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Voice of Africa (VoA). Additionally, the country has revoked licenses of Non-governmental organizations in attempt to shield themselves from international scrutiny.
As elections fast approach, members of the Imbonerakure have made headlines for constantly ill-treating opposition members for holding public rallies. Dozens of National Congress for Freedom party (CNL) members are languishing in prison for speaking out against the government. Party leader Agathon Rwasa believes the upcoming elections will not be free and fair.
“It is extremely dangerous to speak out critically in Burundi today,” said CoI Chairperson Mr. Doudou Diene. “The stifling of such voices is what allows the country to present an illusion of calm,’’ added CoI Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor.
CoI reports that fear has engulfed Burundi as the Imbonerakure continue to harass people. The commission has now called upon government of Burundi to put an end to the rampant violations before the highly anticipated 2020 elections.