BURUNDI: Bishops denounce political murders and human rights violations

The flag of Burundi. (© Seeds Scholars)
The flag of Burundi. (© Seeds Scholars)

Burundian bishops have issued an impassioned plea for justice to be “administered in accordance with the law”, condemning the “forced disappearances and politically motivated murders” plaguing the country.

In a “message of peace” seen by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Burundi’s Catholic bishops decried the human rights violations and abuses which often take place away from the public eye.

The bishops wrote in their statement: “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.

“If a person is arrested by the competent authorities, justice must be administered in accordance with the law – the person must be held in a place that is known and accessible to family members.”

Burundi – a small country in Africa with a population of around 13 million – has been shaken by a security crisis stemming from political turmoil going back to the early 1990s.

In 2023, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern “about allegations of forced disappearances and killings of political activists and journalists carried out by the security forces and pro-government groups” in Burundi.

The bishops warned that, “if impunity becomes entrenched in society, people lose confidence in the justice system, thus leading to the danger that they become discouraged, take the law into their own hands, and commit crimes”.

They went on to call on those who “harbour the desire to shed the blood of peaceful citizens in order to give voice to their ideology or to seek political power” to “sheathe their swords again and set about building the nation by adopting ways that respect the dignity of human beings and favour dialogue and consultation”.

Maxime François-Marsal, ACN’s head of section for Francophone countries in Central Africa, said: “Burundi has a very painful history, characterised by massacres, murders, social conflicts and violence.

 “There is a climate of mistrust everywhere in the country, even among friends and family.”

ACN has supported more than 200 projects in Burundi over the past 10 years, including pastoral activities and the training of priests, catechists and religious Sisters.

Mr François-Marsal concluded: “Let us pray that all those in positions of responsibility in the country will listen to the voice of their conscience, that the message of the Gospel will be heard, and that the people in Burundi, who so much long for peace, will be able to live in safety once again.”


With thanks to Sina Hartert