The world looks away as blood flows in Burundi
More than a quarter of a million people have fled in terror as opposition militias plot their return. Without international assistance a humanitarian disaster looms
Survivors warn that, as the violence spirals and rumours grow of opposition militias training in neighbouring countries, a government fearful of losing its grip has resorted to the poisonous ethnic propaganda that fuelled the country’s past wars and the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda.
Yet the world doesn’t seem to have noticed. There is little sense of international urgency about halting Burundi’s disintegration, and aid groups say there is even less interest in funding food and shelter for victims.
Violence first flared last year when the flamboyant president, Pierre Nkurunziza, a former PE teacher, militia commander and devout born-again Christian, announced that he was casting aside the constitution to run for a third term.
That triggered a failed coup attempt, mass protests and a crackdown that has become a permanent state of violence. On average, more than a hundred people a day have staggered across the Tanzanian border in 2016, figures from aid agencies working in the region show.
The government apparently hopes that, if it can stem the refugee crisis, an already distracted international community will find it easier to ignore problems within Burundi’s tight borders. The controls are so tight that tens of thousands of vulnerable people have gone into hiding inside the country, sheltering in forests or the homes of friends, rather than risk a crossing.
For those who do make it across, Tanzania offers only the most basic protection. The shortage of funds and flood of new arrivals mean that refugee camps are packed, that food rations rarely stretch to more than one meal a day, and that women and children report high levels of sexual assault.
To learn more and read testimonies, see here.
"Il devient absolument urgent de mettre un terme à cette injustice. Il y a un manque de connaissances et de recherches. Il faut donc promouvoir le recueil de témoignages, mais aussi construire des mémoriaux, organiser des expositions..." - @BenjaminAbtan