Burundi downplays US Department of State apprehension over violence in country

Government officials dismiss the Department of State’s claim that traveling to Burundi is potentially dangerous for US citizens.

Father Adolphe Ntahondereye was kidnapped to the DR Congo by an armed group. He died two weeks after his release.

Father Adolphe Ntahondereye was kidnapped to the DR Congo by an armed group. He died two weeks after his release.

Burundi government has responded to the US Department of State warning against traveling to Burundi by downplaying the premise of the warning.

The Department of State issued on 23 June a warning to US citizens against traveling to Burundi “due to political tensions, political and criminal violence, and the potential for civil unrest.”

Willy Nyamitwe, Senior Media and Communication Adviser to President Nkurunziza responded by saying “the country can be visited without any security risk.” Violent incidents are not peculiar to Burundi, they occur as they do in other countries, he says.

The warning cites frequent criminal incidents involving gunfire and grenade attacks in different parts of the country.

It also mentions past incidents in which diverse armed groups based in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo perpetrated attacks and kidnappings of civilians in Burundi.

Other incidents the warning includes are ambushes of vehicles on roads from Bujumbura by armed criminals.
The Burundi police criticize the warning for not giving the exact picture of the current security situation in Burundi.

“The warning is obviously not about Burundi. The incidents mentioned last happened months ago. And the groups committing them have been dismantled”, says Pierre Nkurikiye, Spokesman for the Police.
“Currently, the situation is stable”, he says.

Same facts, opposing interpretations

Over the recent days the security situation in Burundi has been a bone of contention between the government and its critics.

Critics of the government, national as well as international, raise security concerns especially for Burundians opposed to the present government, which has consistently dismissed the allegations.

The UN Commission of Inquiry has recently reported that human rights violations including extrajudicial executions, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and forced disappearances persist in the country.

The commission has also reported deep and widespread fear that reigns amongst some Burundians.
The Government, that has refused to cooperate with the commission and similar commissions that preceded it, dismissed the report as biased.

Controversies aside, criminal violence including homicide, theft and burglary throughout the country is often reported by the police. The latest incident in which a police officer was butchered happened last night

The police spokesman says the officer was guarding a post office in the western province of Bubanza when unidentified criminals slaughtered him and took his weapon around 1 a.m. “They did not take any money”, says Nkurikiye.

Many Burundians claim they are harassed for their political leanings. Such cases involved the recent arrest of supporters of the renowned political opponent Agathon Rwasa in the provinces of Gitega (centre) and Bururi (south).

Forced disappearances and extra-judicial executions that allegedly used to target opponents to the government has in recent days affected members of the ruling Cndd-Fdd party’s youth wing.