"The killers came in the dark of night..." - extracts from a speech by the South African President Thabo Mbeki, August 20th 2004
The killers came in the dark of night. They attacked a Burundi army camp located nearby, charged with the responsibility to protect the refugees. This was to stop these soldiers intervening as the murderers did their dirty work of murdering in cold blood well over 150 children, women and men as they slept.
The killers came in the night and hacked to death perfectly innocent people who were already suffering because violent conflict in their country had turned them into refugees. They poured petrol on the shacks in which the people lived and set them alight. Many of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition. Those who tried to run away were shot down in cold blood.
With cold and deliberate intent, they did not touch even one of the other refugees who stayed in other shacks a mere few metres away, but belonged to other Congolese ethnic groups.
The only fault of the dead was that they were Banyamulenge. A mindless and criminal hatred drove the killers to carry out an unpardonable crime against humanity. What they hated was the fact that the Banyamulenge were Banyamulenge. The murderers viewed the mere fact that the Banyamulenge exist as human beings as unacceptable.
They therefore took it upon themselves to commit cold-blooded murder, to ensure that the Banyamulenge cease to exist. Led by Adolf Hitler, the Nazis had taken the same decision with regard to the Jewish people, and systematically embarked on the Holocaust intended to annihilate an entire people.
Half-a-century later, other criminals, this time on our continent, carried out a genocide that claimed the lives of a million Rwandans in a mere 100 days. Hitler's African successors argued that the Tutsis of Rwanda, ethnically related to the Banyamulenge of the DRC, were "cockroaches" that did not deserve to live and therefore had to be exterminated.
There is an armed group in Burundi called the Palipehutu-FNL. This group, whose leader passionately presents himself as a born-again Christian, has refused to lay down arms and join the Burundi peace process. As the Barundi have courageously engaged the process to bring peace to their country, preparing for democratic elections, Palipehutu-FNL has taken the conscious decision that it will not join the peace process.
In action, it has made the unequivocal statement that it is determined to continue killing other Barundi, utterly contemptuous of the people's heartfelt desire for peace, and unmoved by the fact that 300,000 people have died in a decade-long conflict. Active in the vicinity of the capital city, in Bujumbura Rural, Palipehutu-FNL has unashamedly carried out operations that make the statement that this organisation, wrongly described as a Front for National Liberation, has nothing to do with the national liberation of the Barundi, and everything to do with the commission of violent crimes against the people of Burundi.
Perhaps it should have not come as a surprise that, by its own admission, Palipehutu-FNL was involved in the Gatumba massacre of Friday, August 13. This armed group has become so accustomed to the shedding of innocent blood that it made bold to make the statement that it was responsible for the Gatumba massacre. It went further to say that it had no fear of retribution for its crimes, because it was certain that it had become untouchable."