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Posts Tagged ‘Titanic Express

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

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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

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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

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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

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Message of support from Burundi opposition leader Alexis Sinduhije

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Alexis Sinduhije is an award-winning former journalist and political prisoner, now the leader of Burundi’s “Movement for Security and Democracy”. I’ve been in touch with him since 2002, when he was director of Burundi’s groundbreaking Radio Publique Africaine. During Burundi’s long civil war, RPA took the lead in investigating and reporting on the abuses on both sides, including the December 2000 “Titanic Express” massacre, in which my sister Charlotte was killed.

Earlier today I emailed Alexis to tell him about my own plans for marking the 10th anniversary of the attack. I was pleased and encouraged to get this reply: “I support your action. I am on the same stand: justice, justice and justice for the victims of Titanic”.

Alexis speaks in more detail here about the wider need for justice in Burundi as a means of breaking the cycle of corruption and abuse.

Written by Richard Wilson

December 2, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Marking time – December 28th 2010

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

*UPDATE* – Amnesty International have issued an “Urgent Action” calling for Jean-Claude Kavumbagu’s release. The Committee to Protect Journalists have visited him in prison, where Jean-Claude told them that “international pressure” would be vital to secure his freedom.

It’s just short of a decade since my sister Charlotte was murdered. She was 27 – two years older than me. We had a close, if sometimes stormy, relationship, and for a long time the world felt a lot colder and less colourful than it had done before. While my life has changed a great deal since then, the nature of this sort of experience, I think, is that one never quite sees things in the same light again.

Charlotte’s death set my life on a new trajectory, of which this blog is a small part. I left my job, did a lot of campaigning, went abroad for a while, and ended up writing a book about my sister’s life and death, which in turn led to other writing opportunities. My second book, “Don’t Get Fooled Again”, covers a very different subject area, but Charlotte’s influence is there. My sister had been taking time out to teach science in a rural Rwanda school, after finishing a PhD in microbiology. She was haunted by the effect of AIDS on the community in which she was living, and planned to pursue a career in HIV research on her return to the UK. Her passion for this issue, and in particular her belief in the need to challenge the many myths around the disease – was one of the things that prompted me to look in depth at AIDS denialism when I came to write “Don’t Get Fooled Again”.

Charlotte was killed not in Rwanda, but in neighbouring Burundi. She had recently got engaged to a Burundian teacher, Richard Ndereyimana. They were travelling to meet his family when their bus was ambushed by a Hutu-extremist militia group, the “Forces Nationales de Libération” (FNL), high in the hills above the Burundian capital, Bujumbura. Hutu passengers were released unharmed. Those presumed to be Tutsi – including Richard Ndereyimana – were lined up and shot. Charlotte was killed with them. In all, 21 people died. The attack became known as the “Titanic Express” massacre, after the bizarre and ill-fated name of the bus in which they were travelling.

The 10th anniversary of the massacre falls on December 28th this year. I’ve decided to mark it with a 24-hour “Twitter marathon”. I’ll be knocking back a lot of coffee and posting a message every 15 minutes from 1.30pm on the 28th, the time that the attack began, to 1.30pm on December 29th.

There’s a rich array of material online about Burundi’s complex, albeit often-ignored, recent history. I’ll be aiming to profile the best of it over the course of the 24 hours – from eye-opening video footage and witness testimonies to niche blogs, bizarre quotes from Richard Nixon, and painstakingly-detailed human rights reports.

Alongside this, there are two particular issues that I’ll be seeking to highlight.

Firstly, despite compelling evidence, no serious effort has been made to prosecute those who carried out the massacre in which Charlotte died, amid a climate of near-total impunity for the elites on both sides. Despite being given numerous cash payments, offers of government jobs, and “provisional” immunity from prosecution, the FNL have continued to pose a threat, and are now reported to be mobilising for a new “holy war” in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Secondly, while the war criminals remain free, Burundi’s independent media has taken a massive hammering. Journalists are routinely harassed, attacked, threatened and jailed. One of those now languishing in prison is Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, who over the years has helped enormously with the campaign for justice over the Titanic Express massacre, and whose support was indispensable when I was researching my first book.

Jean-Claude was arrested in July this year and charged with “treason” after making critical comments about Burundi’s armed forces. The Burundian government has previously been responsive to international pressure in cases like these. Given all that Jean-Claude has done over the years it seems somehow appropriate that I mark the 10th anniversary of Charlotte’s death by doing what I can to highlight his case.

I’ll be available on the day to speak to any journalists who might want to cover the story, and can also be contacted beforehand via richardcameronwilson AT yahoo DOT co DOT uk, or 07969 802 830. See here, here and here for some previous media things I’ve done on this.

The Twitter stint will begin at 1.30pm UK time (3.30pm in Burundi) on December 28th – www.twitter.com/dontgetfooled

Written by Richard Wilson

November 30, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Groundhog Day in Burundi…

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I spoke to a Burundian friend earlier this evening who is deeply concerned about rising tensions in his home country ahead of elections scheduled for June. A video on the “Burundi Transparence” website purports to show the ruling CNDD-FDD party’s youth militia acting out a show of strength in scenes worryingly reminiscent of pre-genocide Rwanda in 1994.

Human Rights Watch put out a detailed report on the militias mid-way through last year:

Beginning in December 2008, residents of Busoni commune, Kirundo province and Kayogoro commune, Makamba province reported “militia-like” activities by former FDD combatants and members of the CNDD-FDD youth league, known as “Imbonerakure.” The youth, with the acquiescence of local administrative, police, and party officials, carried out harassment and arrests of political opponents…

In Busoni commune, Kirundo province, the CNDD-FDD youth league engaged in “night-time sports,” which involved parading with large sticks in military fashion.[229] According to media reports, these youth also chanted threatening slogans about “crushing their opponents.” Jean Minani, a prominent parliamentarian from Busoni and founder of “Frodebu-Nyakuri,” a splinter group of FRODEBU that generally aligns with CNDD-FDD, told Human Rights Watch he had observed the activities. He confirmed that the youth were armed with sticks and clubs, and chanted slogans in Kirundi which roughly translated as “Those who are not with us will be sent into exile or die.”

The International Crisis Group warned today that:

The CNDD-FDD youth wing’s physical training, war songs and quasi-military organisation raise the spectre of militia violence and a large-scale intimidation campaign. The other former rebels, the Forces nationales de libération (FNL) and the Front pour la démocratie au Burundi (FRODEBU) are mobilising their own youth wings to oppose intimidation tactics. The police have remained passive or become accomplices to the ruling party’s abuses.

The ICG recommends that the international donor community:

Warn Burundian political leaders that those responsible for atrocity or other grave political crimes will be prosecuted – by the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal if necessary – and that targeted sanctions will be imposed on those resorting to massive fraud or violence to win the elections.

On the face of it this might sound reasonable enough, but to someone who’s been following the situation in Burundi for nearly a decade now, there’s an eerie sense of déja vu.

Here’s a report from 2005 on the violence that preceded the elections last time around:

[Nureldine] Satti demanded an investigation into mortar attacks that wounded five in the suburbs of the capital Bujumbura on Tuesday night, and recent reports of summary executions in Bujumbura Rural province… “We want to know the truth. The UN and the international community will not tolerate war crimes anymore. Any individual, any group responsible for war crimes will be held accountable for its acts,” he told a press conference.

And here’s a report from 2004, after Hutu-extremists massacred 160 Tutsi refugees at the Gatumba refugee camp in Burundi:

“The people who committed this terrible crime must be out of their heads. They are really terrorists,” Mrs [Agnes] Van Ardenne told reporters after visiting the refugee camp at the weekend. She said the suspects should be tried by the International Criminal Court. The FNL has indicated it will face its responsibility and appear before the court in The Hague. There will be no mercy for the perpetrators of the massacre, Mrs Van Ardenne said.

And here’s a UN security council statement from 1996:

The Council shares the Secretary-General’s deep concern at the situation in Burundi, which has been characterized by daily killings, massacres, torture and arbitrary detention. It condemns in the strongest terms those responsible for such actions, which must cease immediately… It reiterates that all who commit or authorize the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law are individually responsible for such violations and should be held accountable.

Not one of these declarations has been honoured. Efforts to refer the Gatumba massacre to the International Criminal Court quickly stalled amid a lack of political will – and silence from the International Crisis Group. The UN’s longstanding promise of a “special chamber” for Burundi remains little more than a twinkle in Ban Ki Moon’s eye, having got lost in endless negotiations with the same Burundian government officials who would likely become defendants were it ever to get off the ground.

Threatening to prosecute people – as distinct from actually putting war criminals on trial – certainly has the advantage of being free and not particularly timeconsuming. But if the International Crisis Group is really in the business of trying to stop Burundi’s political elite from organising yet more mass-killings, it’s difficult to see how, on past form, getting donors to issue yet more empty threats is likely to make any difference at all to the situation. 

Written by Richard Wilson

February 12, 2010 at 11:59 pm