Justice denied: One year on from Gatumba, the killers still walk free
On August 13th 2004, 152 Congolese Tutsi men, women and children were shot, burned and hacked to death by Agathon Rwasa's FNL, at the Gatumba refugee camp in western Burundi. In response, the Burundian government issued arrest warrants for the FNL leaders Agathon Rwasa and Pasteur Habimana, declaring their intention to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court. Regional leaders declared the FNL a "terrorist organisation". The UN passed two resolutions demanding that Gatumba's killers be brought to justice, and launched an investigation.
Asked about the status of the Gatumba investigation earlier this year, the UN's Burundi office said "it is a wait and see situation". No further updates have been given, and it appears that the investigation has been suspended. When Agathon Rwasa appeared publicly in Tanzania in May 2005, no attempt was made to arrest him. Rwasa's crimes were set aside in the hope that this would help bring peace to Burundi.
Human rights groups have long argued that allowing the perpetrators of such crimes to remain at large can only undermine the prospects for genuine peace, and entrench Burundi's "culture of impunity". These concerns appear to have been borne out. The agreement Rwasa signed in May 2005 fell apart within days. Local media recently reported that 300 civilians have been killed by the FNL in the last two months.
The August 13th Gatumba massacre was the biggest single atrocity that Burundi has seen for years. By bringing the perpetrators to account, the international community can help to bring an end to the cycle of violence in Burundi.
Burundi, human rights, Current Affairs, Politics, Africa