Mass Grave Found in Burundi

Mass grave in Burundi: is the government involved ? Mass grave in Burundi: is the government involved ? RFI/Sonia Rolley

10 March 2016 
A mass grave in the capital Bujumbura was uncovered on the day the United Nations sent in independent experts to assess human rights violations in Burundi.


Suspicions of mass graves were raised after months of internal conflict in Burundi resulted in over 400 deaths, with many bodies unaccounted for in local morgues. In late February 2016, a mass grave was uncovered in the capital of Bujumbura, where government officials reported that around 30 corpses were buried. The discovery coincided with the arrival of United Nations independent experts, sent in to assess human rights violations in the country.

Since April 2015, over 400 people have died, and 240,000 others have fled the country after President Pierre Nkurunziza launched his campaign for third term in office, contrary to a strong opposition. His re-election in July 2015 led to violent street protests, an unsuccessful attempted coup, and assassinations. The United Nations has been under pressure to prevent further violence in Burundi, and avoid a similar outcome of the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, a nation of similar ethnic make-up to Burundi that has a population of 85 per cent Hutu and 15 per cent Tutsi. In January 2016, the UN Security Council attempted to end the months of violence, only to be rejected by President Nkurunziza.

There are reports that the mass graves are either of missing people from between April to May 2015, when people opposed the President’s third term, or from December 2015 in the aftermath of the bloodiest day of the crisis. In January 2016, Amnesty International said that before-and-after satellite footage showed five possible mass graves on the outskirts of Bujumbura. “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. Bujumbura Mayor Freddy Mbonimpa stated that one of the alleged killers “told us that there were about 30 bodies in the grave. The murderer said they buried people there who had been killed for supporting a third term.”

Burundi’s attorney general acknowledged that the government buried dozens of suspected rebels that died during attacks on military bases, yet he denies any accusations of the government’s involvement in the mass graves. The UN independent experts have concluded the first stage of their investigations aimed at helping “the State fulfil its human rights obligations, ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses, including by identifying alleged perpetrators,” said Christof Heyns, one of the United Nations independent experts.


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