Magazine article The Christian Century

Refugees Tell of Violence, Political Strife in Burundi

Magazine article The Christian Century

Refugees Tell of Violence, Political Strife in Burundi

Article excerpt

Why the militia came for Nolasque Nduwimana, a history teacher at a girls' Catholic boarding school in Burundi, was obvious.

"Yes, I supported the opposition," he said. "Why should that mean I should be killed?"

Nduwimana learned that his name was on a hit list drawn up by local ruling party officials. He made up his mind to flee but wanted to finish marking his students' exams first.

Just before Easter, close to midnight, five armed men broke into his room and forced him to the floor. At that moment, another teacher distracted the men, and Nduwimana seized his chance, fleeing barefoot into the night disguised as a priest.

"The church is all the militia respect anymore," he said.

For several days he refused to leave his tent in the refugee camp in Tanzania, 30 miles from the Burundian border, run by the UN Refugee Agency. Nduwimana is still visibly frightened. This camp is too close to Burundi, he said.

"People can find me here," he said, his lips tightening.

A year ago, Pierre Nkurunziza, Burundi's president, declared that he would run for a third term of office despite a constitutional two-term limit. His announcement, later approved by the courts, sparked street protests, which were followed by security crackdowns.

A ruling party militia, the Imbonerakure, swept the country, hunting down opponents. And antipresidential armed gangs sprang up.

[One gang attacked an Anglican church, St. Mark's, in Bujumbura, Burundi's capital, in December, killing a boy and injuring two people, the Anglican Communion News Service reported.

The Anglican Province of Burundi told ACNS that attacks were common in the capital, but not usually against churches.]

In the past year hundreds died and more than a quarter of a million Burundians fled to neighboring countries. Half of them went to Tanzania.

Refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo report that pro-regime enforcers have been crossing the border to intimidate and attack opponents. …

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