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.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

FNL Fighters Assemble But Continue to Tax Civilians


Residents of two Burundian provinces that are strongholds of the Forces nationales de libération (FNL) rebel group, which has agreed a ceasefire with the government, have expressed concern over continued 'taxation' by the rebels.

The residents are also worried that the FNL is recruiting civilians to its ranks "as potential beneficiaries of demobilisation fees".

The FNL, led by Agathon Rwasa, and the government signed the ceasefire agreement on 7 September in Tanzania's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. Since then, FNL combatants have appeared in their strongholds of Bubanza and Bujumbura Rural, awaiting cantonment. The latter surrounds the capital, Bujumbura.

Previously, FNL fighters operated from a nature reserve on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Now they are turning up in villages, wearing military fatigues, in search of food, which is alarming the population, especially in Bujumbura Rural.

Although hostilities have ceased since the signing of the ceasefire, residents of Nyabiraba, Muhuta and Mutimbizi villages, all in Bujumbura Rural, have said the FNL fighters have been collecting "taxes", ranging from US $0.50 to $1.50 per cow, while recruiting civilians as potential beneficiaries of the demobilisation process.

"The situation could worsen if the FNL combatants are not quickly reintegrated from designated demobilisation centres," Pascal Nyabenda, the governor of Bubanza, said.

Nyabenda criticised the FNL leaders for failing to hold discussions with local authorities on ways to assemble and feed the combatants. He urged the government to provide food for the combatants to prevent them from stealing from civilians. Nyabenda said a team was needed to monitor the enforcement of the ceasefire accord between Rwasa's FNL and the government.

Some 169 FNL fighters had assembled in Mpanda District over the weekend but police dispersed them on Monday. In Bubanza, the fighters emerged from hideouts in Musigati District. Another 400 armed combatants, loyal to an FNL faction led by Jean-Bosco Sindayigaya, have assembled in Rumonge Commune in the southern province of Bururi.

However, some of Sindayigaya's fighters are resisting demobilisation. "Cantonment is premature at this time because our wing has not yet negotiated with the government," Edmond Mbonyingingo, a commander in the faction, said.

On Friday, a spokesman in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Public Security, Ildephonse Mushwabure, urged FNL combatants to stay where they were, pending cantonment.

South Africa, the mediator in the Burundi peace process, has said negotiations with Sindayigaya's FNL would take place after the signing of a ceasefire. A joint government-FNL team to implement the accord was to have been set up seven days after the signing but is not yet in place.

The accord stipulates that the FNL combatants assemble at designated points 14 days after the signing but these points have not been identified. Moreover, the accord provides for a 21-day period to demobilise the fighters and group those scheduled for integration in the national police and defence forces.

The timetable sets the end of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process at 30 days after the signing of the accord.

A DDR communications officer, Augustin Nzabampema, said a team was ready to demobilise FNL combatants after their assembly and cantonment. In addition, army spokesperson Lt-Col Adolphe Manirakiza said the military would enforce the accord and thus ensure the success of the peace process.

, , , ,

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Burundi totters on the brink of chaos"

From The East African

BURUNDI STILL FACES many obstacles in its quest for peace, despite the recent historic signing of a peace agreement between the government and the last holdout rebel group – the Forces for National Liberation (FNL).

Indeed, the ceasefire deal came against the background of rising political tensions in the country.

Analysts now say that unless the underlying causes of the tensions are addressed, the peace deal will not hold for long.

Early last month, the Burundi government carried out a wave of arrests of prominent opposition politicians, accusing them of plotting a coup.

So far, the government has not produced any evidence to back up the arrests, whose suspects include former president Domitien Ndayizeye and former Vice-President Alphonse Marie Kadege.

These events have taken place in a climate of deepening distrust between the government on one hand and the political opposition and the press on the other.

According to observers, this is hardly the environment to nurture a lasting peace agreeement.

The root cause of the the crisis in Burundi is the inability, or unwillingness by the ruling elite to share power and resources in accordance with a power-sharing formular agreed several years ago.

Indeed, relations between the government, led by the National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), deteriorated shortly after elections in 2005.

After winning a majority in local as well as parliamentary elections, the CNDD-FDD did not conform to the constitutional provisions regarding the distribution of ministerial seats, which was supposed to be based on the respective parties’ strength in parliament.

Three ministries who were supposed to have have been given to his main competitors – UPRONA and FRODEBU – were surprisingly given to smaller Tutsi parties.

The decision-making process in government has also been characterised by a lack of inclusion, as some major policy decisions were not debated either in the council of ministers or presented to parliament for approval.

Consequently, FRODEBU decided to drop out of President Pierre Nkurunziza's government in March 2006.

More problems emerged as the ruling party started experiencing internal divisions. Two weeks ago, the Vice-President Alice Nzomukunda, one of the leading figures in the CNDD-FDD, resigned, accusing her party of mismanagement.

Critics have also accused the ruling party of disrespect for the rule of law.

Soon after its inauguration, the government launched military operations against the last remaining rebel group, the Palipehutu-FNL.

IN THE COURSE OF THESE operations, it arbitrarily arrested several hundred civilians suspected of colluding with the rebels.

The National Intelligence Service has been directing the crackdown on political dissenters.

Human rights groups and the UN have documented numerous cases of torture and extrajudicial execution perpetrated by security agents during the crack-down.

Intelligence officers also tortured three of the Tutsi suspects in the coup plot, rekindling fears of ethnic violence for the first time in several years.

Neither has the government performed any better in the area of economic governance. The ruling party has been widely criticised for interfering in public procurement, fuelling suspicions that the CNDD-FDD is using state offices to fill party coffers.

Already, both the European Union and the World Bank have expressed concern at corruption. The bank has suspended part of its budgetary aid pending an audit of some of the project it supports.

According to the new constitution, the president is elected by the national assembly, and he in-turn names two vice-presidents from different ethnicities and political parties.

Ministerial positions are then allocated based on how many seats each party has in parliament. Parties with more than five per cent of the vote have a right to at least one of the 20 seats in government.

The first altercation between the parties in government arose due to appointment of vice-presidents and ministers, whom the president hand-picked himself, in some instances without conferring with the political parties of the appointees.

Nkurunziza named Martin Nduwimana and Alice Nzomukunda, from the UPRONA and CNDD-FDD parties respectively, as first and second vice-presidents.

This was interpreted by FRODEBU as a deliberate snub, as it is by far the second strongest party with 30 out of 118 seats in parliament.

Nonetheless, the decision conformed to the letter if not necessarily to the spirit of the constitution, as the president is free to nominate anybody as long as they are from different ethnic backgrounds and political parties.

Nkurunziza also did not consult with UPRONA before nominating the Minister of Planning, Marie Goreth Nizigama, which, although again not in violation of the constitution, led to Nizigama not being initially recognised by her own party leadership.

The second conflict arose due to the nomination of ministers. Given the strength of the respective parties in parliament, five ministers should have come from FRODEBU and two from UPRONA.

Instead, however, only three FRODEBU ministers and one from UPRONA were appointed while three parties that had fewer than five per cent of seats in parliament – Party for National Recovery (PARENA), Movement for the Rehabilitation of the Citizen (MRC) and Inkinzo PARENA, MRC and Inkinzo – were granted one seat each.

The ruling party has argued that it did so to include smaller parties in the running of the country, but it was telling that the redistribution only affected UPRONA and FRODEBU positions, while CNDD-FDD kept their full portfolio of seats.

This act was clearly unconstitutional, and FRODEBU filed a case with the constitutional court.

After a month of deliberation, Nkurunziza changed two of the members of the constitutional court. Subsequently, the court issued a verdict against FRODEBU, arguing that, even if FRODEBU was right, by declaring the appointment of the relevant ministers as unconstitutional, all of these ministers’ decrees and decisions since they came into office would have to be invalidated, which could cause a crisis in government.

It also emerged that in implementing these nominations, the ruling party had manipulated internal divisions within FRODEBU, as the party was split into a faction led by Jean Minani and another led by Leonce Ngedakumana, who was voted to replace Minani at the head of the party in late 2005.

IN MARCH 2006, THE TENSIONS between these two rival parties led to the departure of FRODEBU from government. Tellingly, their three ministers in government refused to resign and continue to hold their positions.

Major disagreements also arose with regard to nominations of people to senior positions in government.

According to the constitution, the president has the the right to name governors, judges of the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court, directors of state companies and high-ranking administrative officials.

In some cases, the head of state must consult the vice-presidents, and all the appointments must be approved by the senate.

But the system has not worked because of the lopsided nature of power where 65 per cent of the senate is composedof CNDD-FDD members.

Although one of the vice-presidents is from UPRONA, he has never turned down the nomination of officials.

The CNDD-FDD’s control over these appointments has led to sweeping changes in public administration with most positions going to the CNDD-FDD.

In July 2006, three FRODEBU communal administrators were dismissed by the governors of Bujumbura town and Bujumbura Rural respectively, based on accusations of corruption and disobedience.

The administrators were members of FRODEBU, while the governors belong to the CNDD-FDD. As the minister of the interior later explained, the dismissals were in violation of the communal law, as the administrators are appointed and replaced by the communal councils, which in these cases had not been consulted properly.

Despite the remonstration by the minister, new administrators from the CNDD-FDD were appointed shortly afterwards and approved by the communal councils.

The regime of repression has also targeted civil society actors. In May, Terence Nahimana, a local NGO leader, was arrested for threatening state security after he warned that the Burundi government could invade the Congo in pursuit of the FNL. He has been in preventive detention since. His trial has been set for November 23.

Indeed, the fierce rivalry between CNDD-FDD and FRODEBU, the two main Hutu parties, has created a climate of insecurity that has been unprecedented since the last elections.

It is an environment where all deaths and kilings are interpreted in the context of this rivalry.

On May 31, 2005, unidentified assailants killed a CNDD-FDD candidate in Bujumbura Rural. On June 2, 2005, two FRODEBU candidates and eight supporters in Bubanza Province were assassinated and, several weeks later, there was a grenade attack on a bar in Bujumbura owned by a prominent FRODEBU politician where two of the party's members were killed.

The transition to democracy has also been undermined by a weak and divided opposition.

When the CNDD-FDD took power in September 2005, its main opposition came from the other main traditionally Hutu party – FRODEBU.

While Nkurunziza’s party is just short of the two thirds majority it requires to pass laws, its competitors are two weak and internally divided to put up much resistance.

His party's dominance in the eight parliamentary commissions, all of which are presided over by CNDD-FDD parliamentarians, has strengthened its grip over the legislature. A review of laws passed since the inauguration of the government shows little to no dissent to any of the legislation signed.

Parliament has also not lived up to its duty of supervising the executive.

Similarly, the president has until now easily obtained the requisite signatures of his two vice-presidents – Martin Nduwimana from UPRONA and Alice Nzomukunda from CNDD-FDD – he needs to issue decrees.

FRODEBU entered the new parliament weakened by an internal leadership struggle between Minani, who was the president of the party during the transition, and Ndengakumana, who replaced him in late 2005.

Despite the restructuring of the party in 2005, it retains weak control over its members.

Three of its parliamentarians have defected from the party. Of its remaining 27 members in the national assembly, around half do not follow Ndengakumana’s lead in voting.

When FRODEBU decided to withdraw from government in March, over half of its members in the national assembly wrote a letter in protest.

Take action - Fax your MP!
Take action - sign the Gatumba petition

, , , ,

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Justice for the victims of Itaba

September 9th marks the fourth anniversary of the Itaba massacre by Burundian army forces, in which at least 174 civilians were killed.

From Human Rights Watch: "Escalating violence demands attention"

Soldiers shot some of the civilians as they fled. They forced others who were hiding in houses to come out, robbed them, then ordered them back into the houses where they killed them. In some cases, those with sufficient money were able to buy their own safety or that of others. One elderly man tried to negotiate with soldiers to save the lives of some forty people who had taken refuge in his house. The soldiers accepted his payment of 60,000 Burundian francs and spared his life but killed all the others.

Another group hiding in a house heard people nearby being killed. Believing that the soldiers had mistakenly taken the victims for rebels, they sought to avoid the same fate by coming out shouting that they were civilians. The soldiers robbed them of everything in their pockets, made them lie down, and shot them all. Only one member of the group survived to tell the story.

One woman was returning from a visit to her father's house accompanied by her twenty-one-year-old daughter when she met a group of soldiers who demanded money. The mother had nothing with her but promised to bring them 5,000 Burundi francs from her nearby home. The soldiers told her to go fetch the money but insisted on keeping her daughter with them. En route back to where she had left her daughter, the woman came across the soldiers and gave them the money. When she asked where her daughter was, they told her to go find her where she had left her. She found the young woman with her skull crushed. She ran to her brother- in-law's house where she found both him and his wife dying in front of their house, both with their skulls crushed. She also found a second brother- in-law dead.

The condition and location of bodies seen by officials and local people in the days following the killings substantiated the account of a deliberate massacre. Some bodies were scattered on the hill, the victims having been shot or hit by grenade or other projectiles. Groups of ten to thirty-four bodies were found in burnt houses. Other bodies were found in houses that had not been burned. The majority of persons killed were on Kanyonga hill; the rest were on Kagoma hill.

Partial records of care delivered at a local health center also substantiate the local descriptions of the massacre. Among the persons treated in the days immediately following the attack were children aged four, five, seven, nine, and fifteen years old, all suffering from either gun shot wounds or burns.

Some 250 houses were burned wholly or in part and a much smaller number were damaged by bullets or other projectiles. Several had the roofs burned and bodies inside, confirming reports that soldiers burned houses with people inside them.

According to a report by the minister of the interior and public security, 174 persons were killed in the massacre, all but one of them known by name to local residents or authorities. The unidentified person, presumably from elsewhere, might have been an FDD combatant. According to one official, virtually all the civilians present at the time of the attack were killed.

Local people buried the victims on September 12 and 13, at the direction of civilian and military officials. Witnesses said that in some cases, where a large number of bodies were found in a house, soldiers simply threw grenades at the house, causing it to collapse on the bodies. They claim that many more than the official number of victims were killed at Itaba, some of them now buried in the remains of their houses.

, , , ,