Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

Close this search box.

Burundi Exiles Record Forgotten Victims of Political Crisis

No comment
Monday, May 23rd, 2016
No comment

By gathering personal testimonies and information on citizen deaths, a project run by Burundians in exile is recording the stories of those killed during the current political crisis.

Violence broke out last year when the president, Pierre Nkirunziza, announced plans to run for an unconstitutional third term. Clashes soon escalated, leading to a series of armed rebellions, mass arrests and assassinations.

But with independent journalists and media targeted by government forces, organisers of the Enfants du pays (Children of the country) project say the stories of ordinary citizens are in danger of being forgotten.

The group has launched a website to publish names and testimonies from family and friends, saying they want to create a “space to tell the story of the victims of Pierre Nkurunziza’s 3rd term, the stories of the people … their hopes, dreams, challenges, shortcomings, and their premature and unjust deaths”.

One of the entries tells the story of Charlotte Umugwaneza, an anti-corruption activist and mother of one who was shot dead in October after being arrested by national intelligence service agents. Another recounts the final moments of Jean Népomucène Komezamahoro, a teenager shot by police on the first day of protests.

“Komezamahoro was a boy of strong faith,” the entry reads, “always of service to others, with a constant smile on his face. His father used to tell him ‘ubuntu buhera hasi’ which loosely translates to ‘integrity is built from the ground up’.”

Burundi Crisis


“There’s been so much bloodshed that many people here think that non-violent actions are pointless,” activists, who asked to remain anonymous, explained in a recent interview with French media. “But we remain determined. Even though this project is draining, it means a lot to see how important it is for the families. Most of them are so happy that someone wants to know about their loved one.”


As the press has been heavily restricted under Nkirunziza’s government, journalists, activists, and citizens have started to report on events in new ways. Alongside the Enfants website, which is now run from outside Burundi after its authors were threatened, there has been a new wave of underground radio broadcasts and social media reporting.

The Enfants du Pays team hopes to use this as an opportunity to work with the Burundian diaspora overseas.

Burundi Crisis 2

They recently held an exhibition in New York, featuring a painting of Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, a prominent human rights activist who was shot in an assassination attempt in late 2015. He has since lost two members of his family to violent attacks.

A version of this article first appeared on Global Voices

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *