Human Right

New Burundian refugees claim gang rape, torture and illegal detention

Burundians who arrived in Uganda between April and June 2017 said they left Burundi for security reasons, according to a new report by the International Refugee Rights Initiative about the causes of the ongoing refugee crisis..

Causes of exile Burundi 2017-1The government insists Burundi is safe, but the new report published by IRRI on 24 August, “I fled because I was afraid to die”, provides evidence of ongoing fear and intimidation. 30 Burundian refugees testified that they left Burundi for two main reasons: threats and abuses by members of the Imbonerakure, a youth group affiliated to the ruling party, and killings and enforced disappearances of family members.

Thijs Van Laer, programme manager at IRRI, said that some refugees cited gang rapes, torture and illegal detention. “Five, including one man, said they had been gang raped”, he said.

For a small minority, economic motives also played a role in the decision to leave Burundi, but always in combination with other security related reasons.

At a refugee summit in Kampala in June 2017, Joseph Butore, Burundi’s second vice president, stated that Burundian refugees should “return to their homeland, because peace and security prevail across the whole national territory”. Burundi’s president Pierre Nkurunziza also expressed a similar message to refugees in his recent visit to Tanzania.
IRRI reports that the majority of the interviewees mentioned three conditions that would need to be in place before they would consider returning. The dismantlement of the Imbonerakure militia, political change, and accountability for abuses, especially those committed since April 2015.

For the IRRI program manager, the regional actors must press the authorities to restore safety for all citizens and fundamental freedoms, and should adopt mechanisms to protect Burundian citizens and ensure accountability.

Since the political crisis erupted in April 2015, accompanied by serious violence and repression, international organizations reported that more than 418,000 Burundian refugees and asylum seekers have left their home.

Concerning the allegations against the Imbonerakure youth, the ruling party’s communications chief, Nancy Ninette Mutoni, would not comment.