By Egide Lucky
Burundian two capital cities, Bujumbura and Gitega, have been subjected to attacks in the last weeks. Besides the rising death toll, over 100 people were injured. The population implores the government to strengthen security. The latter calls on the former to increase vigilance.
In the night of 23rd September, a grenade attack has been carried out at the home of a military officer in Kamenge locality, north of Bujumbura city. Sources in the police confirm death of the officer’s wife and house girl.
On 20th September, three grenade attacks occurred in Bujumbura city, the Burundian economic capital. It was about 7pm o’ clock when a first grenade exploded in the city center at the bus station serving the north of the city. Another grenade was thrown at the same place a few minutes later.
The third exploded in Bwiza locality near Jabe market at some 20 kilometers from the city center. It targeted vendors of vegetables and fishes operating a bit outside the market.
In the city center, people ran from all directions escaping from the explosions. A traffic jam of people, cars, motorcycles amid shootings and explosions was a chaos. Cases of accidents are also reported.
“I was on the queue here waiting for my turn to board passengers. Abruptly, I heard an explosion. I could not leave my car alone. So many people hid themselves in my car, others tried to squeeze themselves under the car. It was terrible,” testified a bus driver met at the bus station the following day. He assumed having seen injured people, some seriously wounded.
He calls on the ministry in charge of public security to double the number of policemen working in the city center.
“It’s not understandable that grenades are hurled near a police camp and no criminal is arrested or shot. We are afraid there may be further attacks in the future,” a conductor expressed his concern over security at the station, also calling the government to strengthen security at public places, especially those that are often overcrowded.
A passenger who was at the same bus station at the time of the explosions denounces a “terrorist and barbaric” attack. “It is so horrible that people throw grenades at a public place and in the night when there is a crowd of people going home after job,” he says, calling the police to reinforce security in public places to prevent further attacks.
At Jabe market where another grenade lobbed, vendors still had great fear the following day. As they had been operating outside of the market, security agents obliged them to go back inside the market for security reasons.
“Many tables are empty here because their owners have been injured by the attack,” says a vendor of vegetables who witnessed the explosion and its aftermath. She deplores that security is not fully guaranteed at the place.
A pub in Gitega, the political capital of Burundi, was subject to a grenade attack in the night of 19th September. A grenade went off in a bar based at Zege bus station in Gitega city. 3 people are reported to have died from the explosion and over 20 were injured.
Before the grenade attacks in Gitega and Bujumbura city, Melchior Ndadaye international airport in Bujumbura was targeted by a bomb attack in the night of 18th September.
A rebel movement RED-TABARA accepted responsibility of the attack. Sources from the airport said that the attack took place outside the airport’s area and did not cause any casualties. However, the rebel group said it was not responsible for the grenade attacks in the city center.
Government condemns the “terrorist” attacks
“The ministry of home affairs, community development and public security condemns those barbaric acts which prove that Burundi is still faced with risks of terrorism,” reads a statement issued by the ministry in charge of security. It calls on the population to increase vigilance especially in crowded public places.
The prime minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni conducted a visit to the injured people of the 20th September attack at Prince Regent Charles hospital. He said 2 people died from the attacks in Bujumbura city and 104 were injured.
The prime minister promised that the government will pay for treatment of the wounded people, “They will be well treated and invoices will be sent to the government for payment,” he said after visiting the injured at the hospital.
He exhorted the ministry in charge of solidarity to provide support to those who may face financial challenges because of the attacks.
Justice accuses opposition leaders in exile to spearhead the attacks
“They are terrorist attacks and crimes against humanity because they target peaceful civilians and public places,” said Sylvestre Nyandwi, Burundi Attorney General at a press conference on 22nd September.
He mentioned that all the attacks have been carried out by a “terrorist group” led by Alexis Sinduhije, leader of MSD (Movement for solidarity and democracy) party that has been working in exile since 2015. Mr. Sinduhije is also on the black list of people accused of staging the 2015 failed coup. He has been tried and given a life sentence by the Burundian justice in absentia.
According to the attorney general, the “terrorist group” also includes François Nyamoya, secretary general of the MSD party and Marguerite Barankitse (Maggy). The latter is a representative of Maison Shalom, A humanitarian NGO that helps and support children from poor backgrounds and victims of war.
“International arrest warrants will be issued and sent to host countries so they can arrest them and send them to be tried by the Burundian justice,” said Sylvestre Nyandwi.
The MSD party denies any link with the attacks. “We strongly reject the unfounded accusations by a weak government that can’t ensure security for citizens. None of our leaders or members is committed to violence and terrorism,” reads a communiqué issued on 23rd September.