Hundreds of people have died in Burundi since April 2015, when protests against a new mandate of President Pierre Nkurunziza broke out. In February, ten explosions caused by grenades were counted in a single night in Bujumbura (the capital). A ten-year-old boy was killed at the Siyoni market in Ngagara district, to the north of the city. Yet another symbolic victim of an anonymous war. Almost quarter of a million people have fled. Now Nkurunziza seems to have opened to dialogue with the opposition (it happened during a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who was visiting the African country). Yet, the real situation has not changed.
It is one of the outskirts of the world nobody talks about. A place where people die in general indifference. Worse than that: There is no awareness about it in the rest of the world. What happens in this small African country of just 27,830 square kilometers is almost non-existent on the news radar.
People are tired of violence and abuse. They are now trying the way of a collective complaint to the International Criminal Court, after sixty victims’ families have already signed an appeal to be sent to The Hague.
The text does not contain only abuse. It denounces also killings without due process, deportations, and torture. The Attorney General of Burundi is trying to avoid the path of the International Tribunal – which would put a spotlight on Burundi – and promises to handle the situation with an iron fist. He invited the families of the victims of alleged summary executions to provide evidence for the investigation and asked them explicitly not to submit them to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“The attorney general calls on all the victims’ families… to submit their complaints and other evidence in order to open investigations. If, by chance, any unlawful acts were committed on the territory of Burundi without being prosecuted, it happened because they were not reported to the public prosecutor.” Government Lawyer Valentin Bagorikunda stated that evidence submitted to the International Criminal Court or to the United Nations might have been “manipulated.” Put otherwise: let us check things first. Although the president blames the opposition for what is going on, it is a matter of fact that the families do not trust him, since no one seems to be able to stop this spiral of violence regardless of who triggers it.
A pool of lawyers offered to collect the reports of the 60 families that claim to have witnessed the death of their loved ones. Thet also say to be ready to support other cases. They say that their goal is “to bring the perpetrators of these serious crimes against humanity before the judges.” The ICC was established in 2002 to investigate and prosecute those responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity when national authorities are unable or unwilling to take legal action.
Meanwhile, volunteers keep retrieving the victims of this massacre like (see the photo) parts of the body of an unknown person killed by alleged members of an armed group and buried in a mass grave in Mutakura, to the north of the capital of Burundi, Bujumbura. A slap in the face of indifference.