Many teachers in the eastern Burundian provinces of Ruyigi and Cankuzo have fled their homes, fearing for their lives. Rumour has it that a plan, codenamed ‘Safisha’ and allegedly being carried out by the ruling CNDD-FDD party, aims to eliminate all opposition members. In the local dialect, ‘safisha’ means ‘to cleanse’.
By Marie-Claire Ndikumana, Bujumbura
“Many members of the FNL (National Liberation Front) party in Ruyigi have recently been killed and others critically wounded by the CNDD-FDD youth,” says a teacher in Nyabitsinda, Ruyigi Province. According to him, the plan to eliminate all FNL members in the province loyal to the Hutu candidate, Agathon Rwasa, is being carried out by the ruling party’s youth league, with the help of the national police forces.
The CNDD-FDD (National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy) is the party of Burundi’s Hutu president, Pierre Nkurunziza.
Fear and persecution
In Burundi, educated people often take up teaching positions. They are frequently elected to represent various political parties at a local and regional level. Fearing for their lives, 25 teachers in Ruyigi Province have given up their jobs; 17 of them have already fleeing the area over fears of persecution.
Eight other teachers have been accused of collaborating with armed groups and have been incarcerated in Ruyigi prison. According to their families, these detainees are members of various political groups under the banner of ADC-Ikibiri, a coalition comprised of more than ten opposition parties.
A teacher who was arrested twice claims that this manhunt against opposition members is being orchestrated by the Minister of Energy and Mines, Moïse Bucumi. “Last September, I bumped into Minister Moïse Bucumi, who was in the company of police officers and soldiers. I was arrested by his guard and taken to the police station. When I enquired about the reason for my arrest, the police officer replied that it was the minister’s orders,” he says.
Rumours and accusations
A former member of the CNDD-FDD youth league confirms the accusations. The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims that he was given the task of eliminating opposition members. However, his attempt to warn the people on his hit list the almost led to his own death.
“The CNDD-FDD said I was a traitor,” he says. “They forced me to go lie on my back, saying that they were going to castrate me. I managed to escape and I have been in exile ever since.” According to the young man, five high-ranking government officials and members of the ruling party were involved in various killings of opposition members in eastern Burundi.
The former youth league member adds that, during a meeting of the CNDD-FDD youth in August 2011, he and his fellow party members received a work schedule. The objective was none other than to eliminate all FNL members. According to him, they were promised 60,000 Burundian francs (35 euros) for every FNL member killed.
“If we failed we would get 20,000 francs (12 euros). Moreover, we were told that whoever revealed anything about the operation would be hanged or would have his mouth padlocked. The keys would then be thrown into Lake Tanganyika, where they would not be found before the return of Christ on earth.”
Concerns and harassment
“Because of all this, members of the opposition are in a state of panic. As soon as night falls, they all leave their homes,” says the Nyabitsinda teacher. In Cankuzo province 16 people from the Cendajuru and Gisagara communities have been detained in Cankuzo Prison for allegedly collaborating with armed groups.
Among them are farmers, businessmen, nurses and teachers. Their families say it’s because of their political views. But according to the public prosecutor in Cankuzo, the arrests are linked to ongoing investigations into the killing of two people by armed groups.
Since the end of the Burundian civil war in 2005, the alleged existence of hit lists has been spreading fear amongst the population. While the opposition blames the ruling party for creating the lists, the authorities, on their part, accuse the opposition of trying to destabilise the country by spreading such rumours.