Agathon Rwasa

Ce site web publie les atrocités des rebelles FNL du Burundi et mène une campagne pour traduire en justice le dirigeant des FNL, Agathon Rwasa. Nous essayons aussi de mettre à nue la question d'impunité en génerale. This website aims to highlight atrocities by the Burundian FNL rebels, and campaigns to see FNL leader Agathon Rwasa brought to justice. We also aim to highlight the issue of impunity worldwide.

Friday, August 19, 2005

"We want an independent probe on the Burundi massacres"

New Times (Kigali): Xtians Pay Tribute to Gatumba Massacre Victims

Several Christians, mostly Congo nationals, gathered at Kigali's Restoration Church Monday, to commemorate one year since the death of more than 150 Congolese civilians killed at Gatumba refugee camp near Bujumbura on August 13, 2004.

The sombre service that attracted more than two hundred Congolese nationals also saw some sections of mourners carry banners with the words, 'We want an independent probe on the Burundi massacres'. Others shouted saying that the massacres could have been stopped. The outcries came in the wake of increased criticism of the UN's failure to curb the killings.

During the service, the pastor called upon Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to end ethnic and political differences in their respective countries.

Other personalities who gave speeches also lashed out at the soldiers of the United Nations peacekeeping force for their failure to contain the massacres.

The August 2004 victims, according to impeccable sources, were largely Rwandan-speaking Congolese often referred to as Banyamulenge. It is said that a force of armed militia, many of them members of the Forces for National Liberation (FNL) stormed Gatumba refugee camp and slaughtered about 152 innocent civilians and injured another 106.

A source speaking on condition of anonymity told this reporter that the massacre was 'more than just another case of ethnically-targeted slaughter in a region known for such horrors.' The massacres, he added, were meant to justify the continuing political conflicts between Burundi and the DRC.

Relatives of the victims have since called for an independent probe in the killings but the two governments have dragged their feet. Several mourners were heard by The New Times saying that political greed among contenders for power in the two countries instigated the bloodbath.

Mourners also blamed the Burundian armed forces for turning a deaf ear to the cries of many, since they were fully aware of what was taking place at the refugee camp.

Available information indicates that the massacres were carried out by a combined force of the Mai Mai, Interahamwe and the FNL, with the FNL claiming responsibility for the attacks.

Elsewhere, it was established that thousands of people gathered at the Rwandan/DRC border town of Goma to commemorate the Gatumba massacres.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"Like a torrential rain, gunfire from automatic weapons resounded everywhere... I said to to myself: 'It is death'."

Reliefweb: Survivors mark anniversary of massacre at Burundi transit camp

GIHINGA REFUGEE CAMP, Burundi, August 16 (UNHCR) – It was exactly a year ago that Congolese refugee Riziki woke up in a tent just inside Burundi to what she first thought was the noise of a powerful storm, but quickly realized was gunfire.

"Like a torrential rain, gunfire from automatic weapons resounded everywhere," she recalls. "No one could tell where it was coming from, but I said to myself: 'It is death'."

Riziki, a 41-year-old refugee who chose that pseudonym out of fear of revealing her true identity, was recalling the horrific massacre on August 13, 2004, of more than 150 refugees in the transit camp of Gatumba, just 3 km inside the Burundian border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Riziki was speaking on Saturday at a commemoration ceremony of the anniversary of the attack. The ceremony, which began with what the refugees called "a sad walk", was held at Gihinga refugee camp, a safer location 75 km from the border, to which the surviving refugees were moved after the attack.

Tears ran down the faces of other survivors, both men and women, as Riziki recounted the tragedy she, her husband and 10 children lived through less than a month after they had fled fighting in eastern DRC's Kivu region in July 2004. She said they survived only because they had not found ground to pitch a tent inside the transit camp, but had found refuge with an aunt just outside the camp.

Unknown attackers armed with machetes, automatic weapons and grenades swept into Gatumba camp late that night, torched seven of the 15 plastic hangars sheltering the refugees, set huts ablaze, and killed 136 people on the spot. A number of others died later in hospital, and scores were badly wounded.

"I tore the tent and I fled with my children into the bush," Riziki recalled, adding she has struggled every day during the last year to put that horrifying night behind her. "Besides my children, I carried a little boy who had just lost both his parents and who was wounded in the leg."

The hour-long ceremony at which Riziki spoke was held in a hall decorated with signs that read "Right to Life" and "Never Again". It opened with a Bible reading recalling the exodus of the Jews and their longing to return to the promised land, and songs performed by a refugee chorus. "We will leave this ground of misfortune to join ours who died," ran the words of one of the songs.

"We must now try to overcome the pain, and believe that one day we will return to our country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo", said a refugee representative, who also thanked the Burundian government for its hospitality, and the UN refugee agency for its help.

Kaba Guichard Neyaga, UNHCR's Representative in Burundi, called on Burundian authorities and the international community to combine forces to find and punish those who perpetrated the massacre.

At the time of the attack last August, there were some 800 refugees living in the Gatumba transit camp. They were part of a group of 20,000 people who fled fighting between loyalist and dissident Congolese army troops in South Kivu in June 2004 and took refuge inside Burundi. Aware that the border area was volatile, UNHCR had urged the Burundi government to provide a secure camp for them well away from the high-risk DRC border.

After the attack, the government complied. Many of the refugees have since gone home, and today Burundi still hosts 7,500 Congolese refugees in two UNHCR camps located at safe distances inland, as well as others living on their own in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura.

Gihinga's administrator tried, at the Saturday ceremony, to reassure the refugees that they are now safe. But refugees said their hearts remain fragile, that they are always afraid of another attack, because even their country of refuge, Burundi, is not completely at peace.

As Riziki put it: "I am always afraid now, even when I hear someone throwing stones on the roof."

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Monday, August 15, 2005

International Community playing "pass the buck" over Gatumba massacre?

"Those responsible will be arrested but Burundi cannot do this work alone, we need the collaboration of the DR Congo and the UN" - Burundi refugee minister Francoise Ngendahayo, August 13th 2005

"Unfortunately, no investigation report has been issued by the government to date and the authors of the attack remain free... we urge the Government of Burundi to complete its investigation, issue the report of its findings and bring those responsible to justice. We also encourage the Government of Burundi to seek national and international assistance, including the help of the International Criminal Court, in this endeavor...", United Nations Mission to Burundi (ONUB), August 13th 2005

"The representatives of France, Germany, United Kingdom and Spain, noting Burundi’s strong efforts to investigate the Gatumba massacre, welcomed that country’s intention to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court, while also welcoming the Council’s support for such international juridical assistance.

The representative of the United States, however, said he supported the resolution based on the understanding that it in no way directed, encouraged or authorized ONUB to cooperate with or support the International Criminal Court.", UN Resolution 1577, December 1st 2004

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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Gatumba's victims honoured


Human rights groups around the world are marking the first anniversary of the Gatumba massacre, in which more than 150 Congolese "Banyamulenge" Tutsis were killed, at a refugee camp in western Burundi.

"On this first anniversary of this unspeakable atrocity, we have the moral obligation to honour the memory of these people who were killed just because of their Tutsi ethnic origins", said Emmanuel Nkurunziza of the Burundian campaign group "Action Contre Genocide".

"The search for those responsible for the massacre continues", said the UN's mission to Burundi (ONUB), in a statement.

In the immediate aftermath of the Gatumba attack, the hardlined Hutu-extremist rebel group Palipehutu-FNL (FNL) claimed responsibility, saying that they had no fear of being held to account because they had become "untouchable". The group later claimed that the refugee camp was a military base. A UN investigation found no evidence for this claim, and human rights groups pointed out that nearly half of the dead were children.

2,000 people today attended a memorial service in Burundi, Reuters has reported.

"What happened on August 13 was a genocide... One year after the massacre nothing has been done... We demand that justice be done", Banyamulenge spokesman Binagana Amon is quoted as saying. Amon also criticised the United Nations for its "silence" over the attack.

The London-based "International Action Network on Small Arms" (IANSA) today paid tribute to the 156 victims of Gatumba, who included a local member of the organisation, Pastor Jaques Rutekereza.

"His deep faith gave him the courage to face his awful death, and the death of those he loved, with dignity and courage", IANSA said last year, in a statement honouring Rutekereza. "The world has lost a great man. It has lost a man of peace."

Rutekereza died with six of his children, according to IANSA.

Members of the Congolese diaspora have been active in the commemorations. The community in Portland, Maine has organised a weekend of events, including public testimonies from those who lost loved ones in the attack, and a talk by John B. Robinson, who helped produce the film "Hotel Rwanda."

"We can't forget them", Georges Budagu told the Portland Press Herald.

"We want to make sure the United Nations and the United States use their influence to bring those people... to justice". Three of Budagu's cousins died in the massacre.

The UN, in turn, asked the Burundian authorities to do more to pursue the perpetrators:

"In the name of the victims, and as part of the effort to end impunity for the killings and massacres that have plagued this region for too many years, we urge the Government of Burundi to complete its investigation, issue the report of its findings and bring those responsible to justice."

The UN also repeated its call for Burundi to involve the International Criminal Court in the investigation. Previous efforts had stalled due to opposition to the Court within the UN Security Council.

Burundi's refugee minister Francoise Ngendahayo today said that her government is committed to seeing justice for the victims of Gatumba.

"Those responsible will be arrested but Burundi cannot do this work alone, we need the collaboration of the DR Congo and the UN", she told Reuters.

Following the FNL's admission of responsibility for Gatumba, the Burundian government produced international arrest warrants for the group's leaders Agathon Rwasa and Pasteur Habimana. Regional heads condemned the group as a terrorist organisation, with South African's President Thabo Mbeki likening the FNL's ideology to that of the Nazis. Yet when Rwasa held a press conference in Tanzania in May, no attempt was made to arrest him. A ceasefire deal signed soon afterwards broke down within days.

Some analysts believe that offering the group an amnesty might help bring peace to Burundi. Burundi's President-elect recently suggested that the FNL could be allowed to join his government. Others argue that this could make the situation worse.

"For reasons of diplomacy, people are sitting at the exact same table as war criminals, and in some cases granting them immunity. If the atrocities are to end there must be at least some indications that justice will be done", Human Rights Watch spokesman Stephan Van Praet told Reuters, in the aftermath of Gatumba.

Action Contre Genocide's Emmanuel Nkurunziza criticised the UN for what he called a "paradoxical" response to the massacre. Despite widespread international condemnation of the attack, the UN representative in Burundi, held face-to-face meetings with the FNL in Nairobi earlier this year.

"There was no repentance from these killers prior to the meeting; nonetheless, she went on to relay their so-called demands", he said.

Local media recently reported 300 civilian deaths at the hands of the FNL during June and July. An estimated 300,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in Burundi since civil war broke out in 1993

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

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.

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

"To improve the human rights situation in Burundi, impunity must be stopped and prison administrators trained" - UN

Bujumbura, Burundi – “Human rights are like democracy. They require constant improvement,” Mr. Ismael Diallo, Director of the Human Rights Division, said in his brief introduction during the weekly press conference of the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB). “In no country in the world are all the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights respected strictly and daily,” he added.

However, these statements are not in any way meant to justify the virtually daily human rights violations in Burundi. Thus, ONUB’s Human Rights Division has just published a monthly report (June 2005) and a quarterly report (April-June 2005) on the human rights situation in Burundi. Both are damning. The reports concern cases such as violations on the right to life, security, physical integrity, free movement, property ownership, the right to a fair hearing, as well as threats to freedom of opinion and expression.

In Burundi, the perpetrators of the many cases of human rights violations are seldom punished, as they are hardly arrested. According to Mr. Diallo, two groups are particularly guilty of committing these violations, namely, the Hutu People’s Liberation Party-National Liberation Front (Palipehutu-FNL), the last rebel party which has so far refused to join the transitional government, and members of the National Defence Force (FDN), which is responsible for the country’s security. “When perpetrators are not clearly identified, public opinion tends to accuse the FNL. When alleged perpetrators are clearly identified, they are often soldiers of the National Defence Force,” the Director of the Human Rights Division explained.

As Burundian authorities are unable to arrest people found guilty of serious crimes, impunity continues and cases of violation remain high.” Thus, I can tell you that, last May, 53 people were victims of summary executions and extrajudicial killings perpetrated by FDN soldiers and FNL elements,” Mr. Diallo disclosed.

As concerns people pining in prisons, their conditions of detention are deplorable because the prisons are over-populated, with sometimes thrice or more the number of inmates intended for a normal cell.” The Director of the Human Rights Division added that this situation is compounded by the fact that the prisons are old and the prison administrators are not adequately trained.

The insufficient training of the prison administrators was once more evidenced recently by the shocking scenes during which prisoners who tried to escape were shot dead. However, Mr. Diallo conceded to Burundian journalists in attendance that “many uniformed personnel (police, military and gendarme officers) violate human rights not out of wickedness but rather out of ignorance. This is why human rights must be promoted very much in order to foster conviviality and a civilized way of living in society.”

Sexual abuse is topmost among the daily acts of human rights violations. To change this trend, ONUB’s Human Rights Division and local and international NGOs have, over the past three months, been conducting an awareness campaign across the country on sexual abuse. “It will take another couple of months to determine the impact of this campaign, but one can say that there has been a positive change in people’s behaviour with regard to sexual abuse which is perpetrated mostly against young people and minors of both sexes,” Mr. Diallo concluded.

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Monday, August 01, 2005

Rwasa's FNL killed 300 civilians in last two months

Wikinews: Burundian Hutu extremists have killed 300 civilians in the last two months

The Burundian Hutu-extremist group Palipehutu-FNL (commonly known as FNL), has killed 300 civilians in the last two months, according to local sources.

Burundi's Radio Publique Africain has reported the discovery of three mass graves in the provinces of Bubanza, and Bujumbura-Rurale - an FNL stronghold.

"Some of them are killed because the FNL accuses them of collaborating with national defence forces, and others are assassinated simply because they have deserted the movement", army spokesman Adolphe Manirakiza is quoted by Reuters as saying.

The FNL, a hardlined splinter group of the "Partie pour la libération du peuple Hutu", has been fighting the Burundian government since the mid-1990s. Civilians have borne the brunt of the violence, according to human rights groups. The organisation has consistently been linked with remnants of the Rwandan Hutu militia who carried out the 1994 genocide, and is believed to share a similar ideology.

In August last year, the FNL admitted responsibility for the massacre of 152 Congolese Tutsis at the Gatumba refugee camp in western Burundi. Rwandan and Congolese groups are also believed to have taken part in the attack. The FNL later claimed that the refugee camp was a military base. UN investigators found no evidence for the allegation, and human rights groups pointed out that most of the dead were women and children.

Although the FNL is known for its hostility to the Tutsi ethnic group, many of its victims have been Hutus accused of disloyalty.

Burundi's ruling FRODEBU party was recently accused by their electoral rivals of employing FNL fighters to disrupt the country's first polls since 1993. FRODEBU denied the charges, but admitted "political collaboration" with the group.

Speaking to Reuters, FNL spokesman Pasteur Habimana admitted that his group had killed civilians in recent months, but said that those killed had been "people who are sent by the army with a mission of eliminating our fighters by giving them poison". Habimana also accused the Burundian army of attacking civilians.

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