Burundi A Tinderbox After President’s Ally Is Shot
Aug. 3 (GIN) – The drive-by shooting that left a close aide of President Pierre Nkurunziza dead early this weekend, has raised fears of retaliation and cross-border violence.
Mr. Nkurunziza, re-elected last month despite wide opposition, came on television on Monday to announce that police were searching for the individual who shot Lt. Gen Adolphe Nshimirimana. He urged restraint and warned that revenge attacks could “wipe out an entire generation”.
“Burundi has just lost a great servant. Gen. Adolphe Nshimirimana was a hardworking man,” he said. The attackers reportedly targeted the general’s car with machine guns and rocket launchers in the Kamenge district of the capital Bujumbura.
Despite evidence of military style weapons and military uniforms worn by the attackers, a presidential spokesman denied that elements within Burundi’s own security apparatus committed the crime.
A researcher for Human Rights Watch said that “despite or perhaps because of his brutal reputation, Adolphe was generally seen as untouchable, with no one in a position of power daring, or even suggesting, holding him to account.”
The general, a former army chief of staff and head of the intelligence services, is believed to have helped defeat an attempted coup against the president in May.
Tensions in the city have heightened risks to journalists. A prominent Burundian journalist who works for Agence France-Presse and Radio France Internationale was reportedly tortured after being arrested by members of the National Intelligence Service and taken to their offices. He was accused of being a “journalist enemy” but was not charged. Another shooting victim this week was Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a leading human rights lawyer. He was hospitalized in critical condition, according to his family.
More than 70 people have been killed since the unrest began in April and 180,000 have fled the country, according to the UN refugee agency.
Meanwhile, the alleged coupsters are said to be in hiding in neighboring Rwanda, provoking a potential firefight with that nation. The Burundians in self-imposed exile have called for open rebellion. Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe called Rwanda “unhelpful” for allowing them to find sanctuary there.
Rwandan officials deny collaborating with the Burundians. “When you have a deep crisis, looking for a scapegoat is normal,” a senior Rwandan official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity about diplomatic matters.