The Burundi Human Rights Initiative

President Évariste Ndayishimye (right) accompanies Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi at Bujumbura airport on 23 May 2022. ©2022 Private
President Évariste Ndayishimye (right) accompanies Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi at Bujumbura airport on . © Private

An operation of deceit

Burundi’s secret mission in Congo

Since , the Burundian army has sent hundreds of soldiers and members of the ruling party youth league, the Imbonerakure, into the Democratic Republic of Congo, to fight the Burundian armed opposition group RED-Tabara. There is an official silence surrounding the operation. Soldiers and Imbonerakure have crossed the border in a clandestine way and have been warned not to talk about their mission.

The Burundi Human Rights Initiative’s report, “An operation of deceit: Burundi’s secret mission in Congo”, documents the military operation and links it to the trend towards increased militarisation in Burundi. It describes the large-scale mobilisation of Imbonerakure to take part in “patriotic duties” as well as hardline speeches by the secretary general of the ruling party – developments which should be of concern to international actors.

Évariste Ndayishimiye speaking at a rally in Bujumbura in 2018. ©2022 Private
Évariste Ndayishimiye speaking at a rally in Bujumbura in . © Private

Two years on, no justice for political killings

In an open letter, the Burundi Human Rights Initiative calls on President Évariste Ndayishimiye to take decisive action to end impunity for political killings. “Your Excellency, when you took office, many Burundians, as well as international actors, believed you were genuinely committed to promoting justice. They wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. Two years later, that optimism has started to fade.”

The letter recalls six killings of opposition members in the months leading up to the elections. In only one of these cases has there been a semblance of justice. The letter also highlights the cases of six opponents, or suspected opponents, who were killed, disappeared, tortured or beaten to death in .

A man walks down a path in Gashikanwa commune, in Ngozi province, February 2022. ©2022 Private
A man walks down a path in Gashikanwa commune, in Ngozi province, . © Private

The road ahead

was not a good year for human rights in Burundi. The national intelligence service tortured dozens of detainees, some of whom died as a result. Others were forcibly disappeared or held incommunicado. Many of the victims were opposition party members.

The Burundi Human Rights Initiative’s report, “The road ahead: will Burundi bring its torturers to justice?”, reveals the horrific human rights violations still taking place in Burundi, despite the government’s efforts to improve its image. It includes detailed information about the actions of two officials responsible for particularly serious violations: intelligence agent Gérard Ndayisenga and police commissioner Moïse Arakaza.