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Archive for December 2010

Guest post by “Kabonesho”: TENTH COMMEMORATON OF THE TITANIC EXPRESS MASSACRE : WILL JUSTICE EVER PREVAIL IN BURUNDI?

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Sorting ethnic victims as under the Nazis, grouping the Tutsi on one side, the executioners strip victims of their property, rape women, machine-gun all the Tutsi, whoever looks like them (at least according to the stereotypes dating from the colonial racist now and still in force), all Tutsi’s friends and those who take their defense, then go quietly to write up a report for the genocidal hierarchy as this would be shown in documents that were later seized in the den of these bloodthirsty criminals…

This took place in Burundi in 2000, on December 28th to be precise,  when the PALIPEHUTU-FNL terrorist organization attacked the Titanic Express bus linking Kigali (Rwanda) to Bujumbura (Burundi). It was one of many terrorist acts by these neo-Nazi genocidal militias, now in power in Burundi and which genocide denials shamefully call ‘democrats,’ ‘peace pillars,’ and ‘peacemakers,’ ….
One of the victims, Miss Charlotte Wilson, was a British citizen and a professor at Nyamirambo, Rwanda. She was making the trip together with her fiancé from Burundi, Ndereyimana Richard, a professor at the same school. She was be introduced to his family in view of their future marriage.

Riahcrd is handsome and tall; for the terrorists under the command of Agathon Rwasa, the commandeer of the carnage, he must be a Tutsi and it doesn’t matter whether the characterization was wrongful. His physique is sufficient ‘reason’ for him to be savagely mutilated and then murdered together with his fiancée, while the executioners rejoice in singing “IBIKUNDANYE BIRAJANA” (those who love must die together).

There was also a Canadian citizen of Burundi origin aboard that Titanic Express bus that was linking Kigali, rwanda to Bujumbura, Burundi. His name was Arthur Kabunda. He was Tutsi, and as for the others, this was sufficient to justify his murder.

There is no doubt that the attack was committed by the PALIPEHUTU militia, now in power with the other racist, terrorist and genocidal organization CNDD-FDD. In his December 2000 monthly report dated January 12, 2001, the then commander of the PALIPEHUTU terrorist militias operating from Tenga, SIBOMANA Albert, wrote that the attack was scheduled for December 27, 2000 but the bus had not shown up. It was therefore postponed to the next day at Mageyo on RN1 highway. In the meantime, the terrorists had reinforced both material and human resources that they needed for the ambush. Therefore, this attack was a carefully planned terrorist act.

What is surprising is the fact that Canada and Britain, two nations who claim to be the avant-garde position in the fight against terrorism, acts of genocide and crimes against humanity, support the impunity of the organizations and individuals who have commandeered and carried out these crimes. The stand is even paradoxical if we consider that the victims were not from Burundi alone, but they included also of citizens of Canada, Great Britain two other countries.

It should be recalled that many other international figures have been deliberately massacred in Burundi by these organizations. The international community’s reaction, if any, was more support for these criminals against humanity now in power in Burundi. Obviously, the consequences could be but more institutionalization of impunity as well as violation of international law and universal morality.

One such example is the murders of Representatives of UNICEF, WHO, and the Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi, to mention but the most senior dignitaries. Yet, neither the UN nor the Vatican does promote in Burundi the badly needed rule of law that would curb impunity and establish for peace a foundation that is stronger than the institutionalization of terrorism and racism that were inherited from the Arusha process.

However, that these acts and their perpetrators are of racist, terrorist and criminal nature, is established beyond any possible doubt:

§37 “Effective impunity generates political violence and is a serious destabilizing element in all contexts of the Burundi socio-political system. Respect for the rule of law is essential to maintain order and stability and to protect human rights in any country. Impunity encourages and perpetuates the mass violations of human rights. There have been periodical mass killings, but extremely few perpetrators have been brought to justice. Furthermore, impunity is an obstacle to democratic development and peace negotiations, and makes reconciliation difficult.”[1]

“An amnesty in Burundi is exactly the wrong direction to take,” said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. “Many of the killings in Burundi, whether perpetrated by Tutsi or by Hutu, were crimes against humanity. A U.N. Commission has described some of them as genocide. How can there be any hope of justice and order in Burundi if crimes of this magnitude are left unpunished?

Human Rights Watch urged the creation of a new division of the existing International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to prosecute crimes committed in Burundi. It also recommended using foreign jurists within Burundian courts to speed judging the thousands of persons accused of ethnic killings and other attacks since 1993.[2]

§496. “[3]Having concluded that acts of genocide against the Tutsi minority were committed in Burundi in October 1993, the Commission believes that international jurisdiction should be asserted with respect to these acts.”

It should recalled also that the FNL are the result of a merger between the PALIPEHUTU militias and the ex-FAR/Interahamwe. The agreement to implement that fusion was signed in Cibitoke, Burundi on May 28, 1997. The FDD also cooperate closely with the ex-FAR/Interahamwe, following other agreements signed between then CNDD-FDD’ chairman Leonard Nyangoma and ex-FAR’s Commander in Chief, General Augustin Bizimungu. The UN released these agreements, and reports by Human Rights Watch revealed that nearly 60% of the militia that were terrorizing the neighborhood of Bujumbura were half-Burundian, half-Rwandan …

International Crisis Group report dated 18.05.2001 confirms that cooperation or merger: ” The presence of armed elements of the Rwandan Hutu opposition in Burundi and the rebel PALIPEHUTU association with the RAF is old. “

Cooperation between genocidal militias is limitless. The same report from International Crisis Group warns that “contacts between the political branches and the staffs FDD of Jean Bosco Ndayikengurukiye and FNL of Agathon Rwasa are now regular. In addition to a meeting in late March Mayotte between politicians from two movements, Rwasa also visited Lubumbashi at the same time for a congress of the FDD in order to devote the alliance of two rebel movements. The FDD and FNL refuel in uniforms, weapons and ammunition via Kivu, are doing a hand if necessary and exchange information on the positioning and movement of the Burundian army [28].

In 1997, the UN published the report S/1997/1010 proving that “there is close link between the Rwandan and Burundian insurgent forces, including increasing coordination, cooperation and joint planning between the former Rwandan government forces/Interahamwe and the Burundian Conseil National pour la Defense de la Démocratie and its military wing, the Front pour la Défense de la Démocratier (CNDD-FDD (§ 108 d) The following year, in 1998 the same UN published another report, S/1998/777 proving once again that ” very close co-operation exists between the ex-FAR and two of the Burundian rebel groups: CNDD/FDD and the Parti pour la libération du peuple hutu (PALIPEHUTU) and its military wing, the Forces Nationales de Libération (FNL).” (paragraph 46)

The same report publishes the ” Cooperation Agreement (in Appendix II) signed May 22, 1995 in Bukavu (Democratic Republic of Congo) by the high command of the FAR and the CNDD, formalizing cooperation between the two parties. It was signed by Leonard Nyangoma, President of the CNDD, and Major General Augustin Bizimungu, Commander and Chief of Staff of the ex-FAR. In the preamble to this document, both sides say they are “convinced of the benefits of pooling resources, both material and financial, and coordination of all actions that are needed to ensure a final victory of the FAR and FDD. “(paragraph 47)

On May 21, 1997, another cooperation agreement was signed in DRC between the FNL’s Kagoma battalion and the FAR. It translates as: “We, the delegations of the Kagoma Battalion and Forces Nationales de Liberation, having met successively on April 25 and April 26,1997; May 5 and tMay 21, 1997; have agreed to unite in order to fight our common enemy, namely the Mututsi and his acolytes; in view to free our beloved nation. To achieve this, after our meeting this May 21, 1997, our cooperation project was successful, and we have decided what follows:

1 ° The merger of the Forces under the name “NATIONAL LIBERATION FORCES”;

2 ° The Forces thus merged are dedicated to the total liberation of the Hutu Nation;

3 ° To achieve the objective assigned to the National Liberation Forces, it was decided to begin our struggle from the front of Burundi, the Rwanda front will come second;

4 Throughout the process of liberation, the two forces’ logistics, material, and human means are common.

In other words, the false rebels, who run the institutions of the puppet government in Bujumbura Burundi are not even Burundian!

Is there a reason why law and morality are so despised, even in Burundi? Is there a reason why criminals against humanity continue to be proclaimed kings in Burundi for the same crimes and same accomplices that put them to trial in the case of neighboring Rwanda?

Now that we have been honoring and incensing shame and dishonor, it is high time to go back and earnestly realize that happy and peaceful future is on the side of the proponents of the rule of law in Burundi.

[1] Economic and Social Council deferred E/CN.4/1996/4/Add.1 24 July 1995 § 37

[2] Human Rights Watch, Neglecting Justice in Making Peace, 2001

[3] International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi Final Report (S/1996/682)

Written by Richard Wilson

December 30, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Posted in Don't Get Fooled Again

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10th anniversary of the Titanic Express massacre: Statement from Burundian diaspora group Action Contre Genocide

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STATEMENT ON THE 10th COMMEMORATION OF THE TITANIC EXPRESS MASSACRE

On December 28th, 2000; the PALIPEHUTU-FNL terrorist organization attacked the Titanic Express bus at Mageyo in Burundi, and selectively killed all ethnic Tutsi and anyone who looked so or who happened to be travelling with a Tutsi. Twenty-one innocent people including children aged less than 5 years were thus massacred in cold blood.

As we commemorate this terrorist attack, the Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada expresses the deepest sympathy to the victims’ families and to all those who lost their loved ones in this ignoble attack.

The Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada recalls that this anniversary is made even bleaker by the impunity that PALIPEHUTU-FNL has been enjoying together with the ruling CNDD-FDD and FRODEBU, although both parties were found by UN inquiry commissions to have prepared and carried out genocide against the Tutsi in Burundi (Report S/1998/777, pages 10-24; Report S/1996/682, page 74).

The Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada strongly condemns once more the sustained support that the international community has brought to these organizations despite the unspeakable atrocities that they have committed.

The Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada condemns further the de facto amnesty that PALIPEHUTU-FNL has acquired as the United Nations and major world democracies supported peace negotiations in Burundi that put the enthronement of terrorist organizations before justice.

The Toronto branch of AC Genocide Canada recalls the United Nations that if impunity is prevailing in Burundi, it is because they have failed their obligations as parties to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which binds the signatories to punish organizations which commit genocide.

The Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada invites the United Kingdom, Canada, and all other countries whose citizens were killed in Titanic Express massacre, to realize that:

(a) the decade-old promise by the Burundi government to investigate the Titanic Express attack has not materialized so far;

(b) as long as Burundi is governed by an organization like CNDD-FDD which, like the PALIPEHUTU-FNL, has committed genocide against the Tutsi without ever being tried, no reliable investigation can be made in the Titanic Express massacre or in any other atrocities;

(c) under Burundi’s current regime whereby the Head of State Pierre Nkurunziza, is a convict himself for his leading role in crimes against humanity, Burundi gives no hope of justice for the victims of atrocities that were committed by PALIPEHUTU-FNL, CNDD-FDD and FRODEBU organizations;

The Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada urges the United Nations to assign the above investigations to a neutral, international commission, and to establish an International Tribunal for Burundi that would try the accused in accordance with the UN report S/1996/682, Paragraph 496 .

The Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada reaffirms her belief that granting amnesty to organizations like PALIPEHUTU-FNL, CNDD-FDD and FRODEBU who have committed inamnistiable crimes, is double standard to the people of Burundi for whom crimes that are internationally punished, are deemed normal political activities and swept under the carpet with consent of the international community.

The Toronto Branch of AC Genocide Canada calls once again for the trial of all people and all organizations like PALPEHUTU-FNL, CNDD-FDD and FRODEBU who committed genocide and other crimes against humanity in Burundi.

Done at Toronto, December 28th, 2010.

Emmanuel Nkurunziza

Secretary,
Toronto Branch of AC-Génocide Canada www.acgenocide.blogspot.com

Written by Richard Wilson

December 28, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Posted in War crimes

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Background and links on the Titanic Express massacre

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On December 28th 2000, twenty-one unarmed civilians, including my sister Charlotte Wilson (a British aid worker), and her Burundian fiancé Richard Ndereyimana, were massacred after their bus, bearing the ill-fated name “Titanic Express”, was ambushed in Bujumbura-Rurale, close to the Burundian capital Bujumbura.

According to survivors, the attackers opened fire on the bus at around 3.30pm local time (1.30pm in the UK), shooting out the tyres and forcing it to crash. A large, well-armed group then surrounded the vehicle, ordered the passengers out,  robbed them, and separated them according to their ethnicity. Several Hutus and Congolese were released unharmed. The remaining passengers were stripped to their underclothes, made to lie face down on the ground, and shot. Most of the victims were Rwandan and Burundian Tutsis. Charlotte Wilson was the only European on board.

Who carried out the attack?

The Titanic Express massacre took place in an area dominated by a Hutu-extremist rebel group known for its hatred of Tutsis, Palipehutu-FNL (aka “the FNL”). One survivor recounts that the attackers specifically identified themselves, saying “We are the FNL, not your FDD” (FDD was the FNL’s largest rival at the time). Others have simply described them as “rebels”.

In March 2001 Amnesty International listed the Titanic Express attack among several believed to have been carried out by the FNL. In May 2001, the International Crisis Group attributed the Titanic Express attack to FNL “troops under the order of… Agathon Rwasa”. A Human Rights Watch report from April 2000 lists a number of  carried out a number of similar attacks in the same area earlier in 2000.

In 2002, a document emerged which appears to be a detailed report by the FNL, signed by Commandant Albert Sibomana, of the Titanic Express attack, listing what was looted from the bus, how many people were killed and how many bullets were expended in killing them. Dozens of smaller attacks were listed in the same report.

Sibomana’s track record is bloodthirsty even by the standards of Burundi’s conflict. In February 2000, he reportedly oversaw the massacre of hundreds of his own comrades, after a split within the FNL.

At the time of the Titanic Express attack, Agathon Rwasa was FNL “Chief of Operations” around Bujumbura. In early 2001, he ousted the FNL’s then leader Kossan Kabura, and assumed overall control of the whole group.

Following years of negotiations, the FNL agreed to end hostilities in April 2009, and began disarming. But amid ongoing instability, the UN recently reported that Rwasa was remobilising his forces for a “new holy war” from bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Later I’ll add some links to further reading on Burundi’s recent history, and the long-promised plans for a UN-backed “Special Chamber” and Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Written by Richard Wilson

December 28, 2010 at 12:05 am

Posted in Don't Get Fooled Again

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December 28th 2010: Justice for Charlotte – Free Jean-Claude Kavumbagu

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Video piece about Charlotte’s murder – “Rights Universal”, Channel 4, 2008

Charlotte Wilson, a British citizen, was killed in a bus massacre in Burundi on December 28th 2000. It was one of many brutal ethnic attacks by the Hutu-extremist “Forces Nationales de Liberation” (FNL). Despite repeated promises, the Burundian government has made no serious effort to investigate the killings, or prosecute those responsible.

On the 10th anniversary of Charlotte’s death, her family are urging the UK government to press Burundi to keep its promises, and bring the perpetrators of this massacre to justice.

If you have thirty seconds – please show your support by joining the Justice For Charlotte Facebook group.

If you have five minutes -please contact your MP via this website, asking them to raise Charlotte Wilson’s case with the UK Foreign Office.

Charlotte’s family are asking the UK government to press the Burundian President, Pierre Nkurunziza, to fulfil his longstanding promise to set up a special UN-backed court to investigate the many abuses committed during the country’s long civil war, and prosecute the worst offenders. Human rights experts argue that this approach offers the best hope of achieving both justice and peace in this troubled country. Charlotte’s family believe that the establishment of this special court will be a major step towards justice for the victims of the December 28th 2000 “Titanic Express” bus massacre.

If you have ten minutes - please Fax a or post a letter to Burundi’s President, Pierre Nkurunziza urging him to release the journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu.

Tragically, while the war criminals remain free, one of the Burundian journalists who has done most to highlight the Titanic Express massacre,  Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, has been languishing in prison since July. He is facing a criminal trial for “defamation” and “treason” after making critical comments about Burundi’s army.

Amnesty International have listed Jean-Claude as a Prisoner of Conscience and issued the following appeal:

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in French, English, Kirundi or your own language:

  • expressing grave concern that journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu has been detained on charges of treason and defamation for criticizing the Burundian security services;
  • urging the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression;
  • reminding the authorities that, as a state party to the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Burundi is obliged to uphold the right to freedom of expression.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 17 JANUARY 2011 TO:

President

Pierre Nkurunziza, Président de la République, Présidence de la République, Boulevard de l’Uprona, Rohero I, BP 1870, Bujumbura, Burundi

Fax: +257 22 24 89 08

Written by Richard Wilson

December 27, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Posted in Don't Get Fooled Again

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Attacks on Congolese civilians increase as Agathon Rwasa’s FNL prepare for new “holy war”

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Agathon Rwasa is the militia leader whose forces carried the December 28th 2000 “Titanic Express” massacre in Burundi, of which my sister Charlotte was one of 21 victims. The UN recently reported that Rwasa was remobilising his forces from bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in preparation for a new “holy war”. The Banyamulenge blog  Journal Mibembwe gives more details:

From Journal Mibembwe:

As was reported recently in our news, the security continues to deteriorate in the high plateaux of Bijombo, district of Uvira, where most civilians from the Banyamulenge ethnic group are still victims of the ongoing conflicts in the region. These people, mostly pastoralists, have nothing to do with politics. Those who managed to escape, however, still face the same situation where their killers followed them even across the borders in the neighbouring countries like Burundi where many hundreds have been slaughtered in a refugee camp in August 2004.

Some of those who claimed responsibility in the killings, like Mr. Agathon Rwasa, still move around freely. Instead of being arrested and judged for his acts, credible sources say that this experienced killer, Agathon Rwasa, has found refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Banyamulenge community feel threatened by his presence in the region.

Last time we reported a transfer of some the FARDC army commanders in the high plateaux of Bijombo, causing increased fear in the Banyamulenge community of more insecurity and threats carried out by the government troops in their villages. This is seen by many as the continuation of some politicians’ plans, like ANZULUNI BEMBE  from 1993, to exterminate the Banyamulenge under the pretext that they are ‘foreigners’ or just for who they are, like what Agathon Rwasa has done in Gatumba (Burundi) in 2004.

Written by Richard Wilson

December 18, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Boosting UK trade links with Sudan…

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UK Africa Minister Henry Bellingham says that he and his colleagues can be “candid friends” of the Sudanese dictatorship, whose president is wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court

So this is what the UK government means by “boosting UK trade links” with Sudan…

From The Guardian

Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, has siphoned as much as $9bn out of his impoverished country, and much of it may be stashed in London banks, according to secret US diplomatic cables that recount conversations with the chief prosecutor of the international criminal court.

Some of the funds may be held by the part-nationalised Lloyds Banking Group, according to prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who told US officials it was time to go public with the scale of Bashir’s theft in order to turn Sudanese public opinion against him.

“Ocampo suggested if Bashir’s stash of money were disclosed (he put the figure at $9bn), it would change Sudanese public opinion from him being a ‘crusader’ to that of a thief,” one report by a senior US official states. “Ocampo reported Lloyds bank in London may be holding or knowledgeable of the whereabouts of his money,” the cable says. “Ocampo suggested exposing Bashir had illegal accounts would be enough to turn the Sudanese against him.”


Written by Richard Wilson

December 17, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Posted in Corruption

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Amnesty International urges the release of Jean-Claude Kavumbagu

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From Amnesty International

BURUNDI: DEMAND RELEASE OF ONLINE EDITOR

Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, the editor of a Burundian online news agency, Netpress, has been detained since July after suggesting that the Burundian security forces could not defend the country. He has not been tried and was denied a bail request on appeal in November.

Jean-Claude Kavumbagu published an article on 12 July 2010, one day after suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, criticizing the capacity of Burundian security forces to protect the country from a terrorist attack. Somali Islamist armed group, al-Shabaab, claimed responsibility for the bombings in Uganda. They also threatened to attack Burundi in retaliation for Burundi’s participation in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Jean-Claude Kavumbagu’s article said that “the anxiety has been palpable in Bujumbura and all those who have heard about [the bombings] yesterday in Kampala were convinced that if the al-Shabaab militants wanted to try ‘something’ in our country, they would succeed with disconcerting ease, [as] our defense and security forces shine in their capacity to pillage and kill their compatriots rather than defend our country.” He was arrested on 17 July, questioned without a lawyer, charged with treason, and transferred to Mpimba Central Prison, Bujumbura.

Treason is a crime punishable by life imprisonment and is only applicable under Burundian law in time of war. Jean-Claude Kavumbagu has also been charged with defamation and violating Burundi’s press law. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression. His detention may detrimentally impact on the exercise of free expression in Burundi. It could increase self-censorship by other journalists to protect themselves from arbitrary arrest and detention.

Jean-Claude Kavumbagu’s bail request was rejected on 6 September. At the appeal on 9 November, his defence claimed that violating the press law and defamation do not justify preventative detention and that treason is not a valid charge. However, the Appeal Court of Bujumbura confirmed his pre-trial detention on 11 November. As of 6 December, his lawyers had not received a copy of the ruling and were waiting for the trial date to be announced.

Mpimba Central Prison is overcrowded and insanitary and conditions fall well below international standards.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in French, English, Kirundi or your own language:

expressing grave concern that journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu has been detained on charges of treason and defamation for criticizing the Burundian security services;

urging the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression;

reminding the authorities that, as a state party to the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Burundi is obliged to uphold the right to freedom of expression.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 17 JANUARY 2011 TO:

President

Pierre Nkurunziza, Président de la République, Présidence de la République, Boulevard de l’Uprona, Rohero I, BP 1870, Bujumbura, Burundi

Fax: +257 22 24 89 08

Salutation: Monsieur le Président/ Your Excellency

Minister of Justice and Keeper of Seals

Madame Ancilla Ntakaburimvo

Ministre de la Justice et Garde des Sceaux, Ministère de la Justice et Garde des Sceaux, BP 1880Bujumbura, Burundi

Fax: +257 22 21 86 10

Salutation: Madame la Ministre

And copies to:

The Prosecutor of the Republic

Monsieur Elyse Ndaye

Procureur Générale de la République

Parquet Général

BP 105

Bujumbura, Burundi

Fax: +257 22 27 30 53

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

URGENT ACTION

BURUNDI: DEMAND RELEASE OF ONLINE EDITOR
ADditional Information

Burundi has a vibrant media and journalists continue to criticize the government despite attempts to silence them. The Burundian government has used prolonged pre-trial detention, harassment by judicial authorities and substantive and procedural violations of Burundian law to unduly restrict freedom of speech. Burundi is a state party to both the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee the right to freedom of expression.

The Burundian government is particularly sensitive to criticism of their security forces. Al-Shabaab, a Somali Islamist armed group, has threatened to attack Burundi, as well as Uganda, in retaliation for their contributions to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). AMISOM is a peace support operation mandated to protect the institutions of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. The 11 July bombings in Kampala, Uganda, for which al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, killed 74 people who had come together to watch the World Cup Final, and injured another 70.

Jean-Claude Kavumbagu was arrested on 17 July by Colonel David Nikiza, the Commander of the Western Region, who presented him with a mandat d’amener (an order calling him before the prosecutor). He was charged with treason defined under Article 570 of the Burundian criminal code as: “any Burundian who, in times of war… knowingly participates in an attempt to demoralize the Army or the Nation, with the object of weakening national defense.” Jean-Claude Kavumbagu has also been charged with defamation (imputations dommageables), under Article 251 of the penal code, and violating Article 50 of the 2003 press law (loi No 1 025 du Novembre 2003 regissant la presse du Burundi).

On 30 July, Jean-Claude Kavumbagu was brought before the High Court in Bujumbura (Tribunal de Grande Instance de la Mairie de Bujumbura). His lawyer requested bail, arguing that his pre-trial detention was not prescribed by Burundian law. The court did not rule on the case because one judge had been transferred to another court two days earlier – a move attracting criticism from 10 civil society organizations in a joint communiqué because the judge waited until the trial date to notify the court. The court was forced to wait until September, after the August judicial holidays, to reconvene.

Jean-Claude Kavumbagu’s bail request was finally heard on 1 September. The court ruled on 6 September that Jean-Claude Kavumbagu would be remanded in custody to ensure his availability for the investigation. At the appeal on 9 November, the defence called for provisional liberty claiming that two charges – violating the press law and defamation – did not, under Burundian law, justify preventative detention. The defence stated that if Jean-Claude Kavumbagu were to be charged with treason, the Prosecution would need to declare that Burundi was at war on 12 July. The representative for the Public Prosecutor stated that Burundi had not been at war on 12 July, but that it was for the court to decide. The Appeal Court of Bujumbura confirmed his pre-trial detention on 11 November.

Jean-Claude Kavumbagu has been a prisoner of conscience several times, most recently in 2008 when he was charged with defamation. He alleged that the cost of President Nkurunziza’s trip to see the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics had caused some civil servants’ salaries to be paid late. He was held in pre-trial detention for seven months before being acquitted in March 2009. The Prosecutor appealed the acquittal and the case remains open.

UA: 248/10 Index: AFR 16/004/2010 Issue Date: 06 December 2010

Written by Richard Wilson

December 12, 2010 at 10:41 pm