As a smiling Pierre Nkurunziza thanked God for a controversial third term in power, disturbing accounts of torture of his opponents were reaching the rights group Amnesty International.
Testimonies provided to Amnesty included reports of beatings with iron bars, electric cables and batons. A journalist with the Agence France-Presse, Esdras Ndikumana, 54, was among those subjected to severe beatings.
In their report released this week, Amnesty accused both the police and National Intelligence Service of carrying out “torture and other ill-treatment” since April 2015 against people suspected of taking part in protests against Nkurunziza’s controversial re-election bid.
The report is titled “Just tell me what to confess.”
“The testimonies we received are as devastating as they are disturbing since torture and other ill-treatment are prohibited by both Burundi’s Constitution and by international and regional treaties Burundi is party to,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
Earlier this summer, Amnesty issued a reported titled “Braving Bullets – Excessive force in policing demonstrations in Bjurundi” which cited investigations in May and June finding that police used excessive lethal force, even against women and children, to silence those opposed to the President’s third term.
“It is a tragedy that demonstrators had to brave bullets to try to have their voices heard,” said Amnesty’s East Africa deputy regional director.
Nkurunziza, an ex-rebel turned born-again Christian believes he is in power by divine choice. After taking the oath of office last week, he warned rebels they would be crushed by God.
“They will be scattered like flour thrown into the air — as the God of heaven is a witness, the Burundians will be at peace,” he said.
Many who spoke to Amnesty said they had been threatened to make confessions.
“They told me if you don’t confess, we’ll kill you,” one man told Amnesty. “But I said ‘How can I confess when I know nothing – you’ll have to just tell me what to confess to’.”
Meanwhile, an opposition supporter who was gunned down at a bar near the capital Bujumbura, was buried over the weekend. Pontien Barutwanayo was a member of Burundi’s main opposition party, the National Liberation Forces, which boycotted the recent parliamentary and presidential elections.
Ndereyimana was organizing street protests against Nkurunziza’s big for re-elections.
Meanwhile, … The crisis is not over.”