The United Nations reported last Friday that Burundi security forces are gang-raping women while searching homes belonging to supporters of the political opposition. The UN has documented 13 documented cases of sexual violence by security forces within the last year. The political opposition in Burundi has experienced a significant rise in violence since President Nkurunziza’s announced nine months ago that he will seek a third term in office—a move his opponents say is illegal.
There is fear among neighboring nations and the international community that this political conflict will soon evolve into an ethnic crisis, similar to the Rwanadan genocide in 1994. According to both victims and witnesses of the crimes, members of the country’s Tutsi minority are being targeted and systematically violated or killed, while those belonging to the Hutu majority are being spared. This ethnic element adds a dimension to the use of sexual violence, which in itself is classified as genocide. One woman says she was raped by a Burundi security officer who told her it was the price she paid for being a Tutsi.
In the face of this repression, civil society leaders launched the online #BurundiStopRape campaign to raise awareness about the increase of violence against women in the country. Of the campaign, Burundian human rights activist and leading opponent of the President, Pacifique Nininahazwe, said: “Let many among us here tweet #BurundiStopRape… to alert the world to the use of rape of women as part of the repression of the opposition to Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term.”
Burundi Security Forces in Pattern of Sexual Violence: United Nations, Newsweek, 15 January 2016.
Burundi’s Forces Are Engaging in Gang Rape, U.N. Official Says, New York Times, 15 January 2016.
Burundi: Activists launch #BurundiStopRape campaign amid increasing reports of offence, International Business Times, 4 January 2016.