Burundian opposition activist Jean-Claude Bikorimana pulls down his shirt to show a scar on his chest that he says is the result of an attack by the ruling party’s youth wing.
The 26-year-old farmer said he was among the about 50 supporters of the opposition Movement for Solidarity and Development who were attacked by 150 “Imbonerakure” armed with clubs and stones as they were playing sports.
“They jumped on us,” Bikorimana recalled of the attack in Gihanga, a town in the hills southeast of the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, in October last year.
Police arrested two of the Imbonerakure — the local name for the youth wing of Burundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD party — but did not charge them, he said.
However, six opposition activists were imprisoned after the incident, he added.
Burundi’s opposition and rights groups say political violence has been increasing as the small Central African country, which emerged from 13 years of civil war in 2006, gears up for presidential elections next year.
Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza is expected to campaign for a third term in office and navigate past a two-term limit enshrined in the constitution.
Vital Nshimirimana, coordinator of the Forum for the Strengthening of Civil Society which groups about 200 non-governmental organizations, said the Imbonerakure has emerged “as a third arm of the security forces alongside the army and the national police” — a claim the government fiercely denies.
Curfews have been imposed and opposition activists targeted with fines, arrests and sometimes fatal beatings to stop campaigning.
In March, authorities in Bujumbura banned jogging in groups of two of more on the grounds that opposition parties were using them as an excuse to organize “uprisings.”
Burundi’s last elections in 2010 were boycotted by most opposition parties, with the exception of Nkurunziza’s ruling Hutu majority CNDD-FDD party and the main Tutsi party, Uprona.
Uprona pulled out of the governing coalition earlier this year, plunging the country into a political crisis and raising fears of renewed ethnic tensions.
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic last month voiced “great concern” over the situation, saying that attacks by the youth group had more than doubled in the past year.
One UN official said there are an estimated 20,000 Imbonerakure members who are “active in matters of security” and could be used to target opposition supporters in the run-up to next year’s polls.
The government has denied the allegations and Imbonerakure leader Denis Karera insists that the opposition are merely trying to “demonize” the group.
“A Imbonerakure member can of course commit a mistake, but do not generalize,” Karera said.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference