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World News

Bishops denounce political murders in Burundi

by Heather Preston

Catholic Bishops in Burundi have condemned a surge in forced disappearances and politically motivated murders, calling for justice to prevail in the East African country.

In an appeal for peace, the catholic leaders have raised concerns over human rights violations that they say are happening away from public scrutiny.

“The realisation that there are people in our country who are cruelly murdered or abducted and disappear for political reasons or other macabre interests makes one shudder," the bishops stated.

Emphasising the importance of administering justice according to the law, they called for those arrested to be held in known and accessible locations for their families.

Burundi, a nation of approximately 13 million people, has been in political and economic turmoil since its civil war began in 1993. More than 300,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands fled to neighbouring countries. The country has experienced three genocides and several violent clashes between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.

In 2023, the UN Human Rights Committee voiced alarm over allegations of forced disappearances and killings of political activists, human rights defenders and journalists, by security forces and pro-government groups.

The bishops have warned that such impunities could erode public trust in the justice system and potentially incite unrest. They called for peace, nation-building and a respect for human dignity to be upheld.

Aid to the Church in Needs’ head of projects for francophone countries in Central Africa, Maxime François-Marsal, says Burundi’s painful history “characterised by massacres, murders, social conflicts and violence” has caused a “climate of mistrust everywhere in the country.”

The charity has called on the faithful to pray, urging leaders in Burundi to heed their conscience, embrace the message of the Gospel, and work towards restoring peace, safety and stability.

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