A gunman killed Burundi’s environment minister early on Sunday, police said, the first murder of a senior government figure in nearly two years of political violence.
Emmanuel Niyonkuru, 54, was attacked as he travelled home in the central African nation’s capital Bujumbura, police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye said in a tweet, Reuters reported.
Violent protests erupted early in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would seek a third term – a move opponents said violated the constitution and a peace deal that ended an ethnically charged civil war.
One Month On, Search for Missing Reporter Continues
It is exactly one month since 37-year-old journalist Jean Bigirimana vanished after leaving his home in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, for Bugarama, a town about 40 kilometers away. There are unconfirmed reports that he was arrested there by members of the intelligence services, but his whereabouts remain unknown.
As the days passed without news, Jean’s young family, friends, and colleagues at Iwacu newspaper began wondering if he might be dead. The cruel nature of such cases means there’s no certainty about the victim’s fate, and no possibility of closure.
It wasn’t until Jean’s colleagues at Iwacu launched a campaign that the government ended its silence. Three days after he vanished, police spokesperson Pierre Nkurikiye flatly denied that the security forces had arrested Jean. A week later, the president’s communications advisor, Willy Nyamitwe, tweeted that the government was investigating and was deeply concerned. He implied the opposition might be responsible, and said he feared the worst.
Dismiss and Prosecute Officials Responsible
Burundian intelligence services have tortured and ill-treated scores of suspected government opponents at their headquarters and in secret locations, Human Rights Watch said today. Police and members of the ruling party’s youth league, the Imbonerakure, have also committed serious abuses, often in collaboration with the intelligence services.
Agents of Burundi’s national intelligence service (Service national de renseignement, SNR) have increasingly been responsible for torturing alleged opposition sympathizers taken into custody. They have beaten detainees with hammers and steel construction bars, driven sharpened steel rods into their legs, dripped melting plastic on them, tied cords around men’s genitals, and used electric shocks. Detainees who were tortured or injured have been denied medical attention and many have been held in stinking, windowless cells.