- Title: Burundians in exile urge for peace two years after crisis began.
- Date: 31st May 2017
- Summary: INJURED PROTESTER WITH BLOOD ON FACE
- Embargoed: 14th June 2017 16:48
- Keywords: Political crisis exile Pierre Nkurunziza third term opposition
- Location: BRUXELLES, BELGIUM/ BUJUMBURA, BURUNDI/ CRETEIL, OUTSIDE PARIS, FRANCE
- City: BRUXELLES, BELGIUM/ BUJUMBURA, BURUNDI/ CRETEIL, OUTSIDE PARIS, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA0036J64G2F
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Burundians living abroad are appealing for a solution to a political crisis, that is now in its second year and that has seen hundreds of people killed and 400,000 others fleeing the country.
Members of several Burundian opposition political parties led by the National Liberation Forces (FNL) and Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD) recently gathered in Brussels, Belgium to call for unity and urge the international community to do more about the situation back home.
The meeting included journalists, activists and members of civil society, many of whom were forced to flee after President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term in 2015, triggering a wave of political violence.
Nkurunziza was re-elected, but some of his opponents took up arms against him.
Human rights organisations have also warned that crimes against humanity are being committed in Burundi, with the risk of intensifying to genocide between Hutus and Tutsis - charges the government has repeatedly denied.
"The MSD party has lost Hutus and Tutsis. Ours is a political family in every sense of the word, whether they are Hutus or Tutsis. We are a big family, we need to see beyond politics for the sake of our country," said head of MSD in Belgium, Aime Napoleon Bucumi.
Burundi's opposition parties say Nkurunziza's third term is unconstitutional and violates a peace deal that ended the country's civil war in 2005.
Government officials and members of the opposition have been among those killed in tit-for-tat violence by rival sides.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, last month expressed concern over the activities of the youth wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party, known as Imbonerakure, which include night raids on opposition homes, and has asked authorities to end the impunity.
Therance Ndayisenga and his family fled Burundi early this year.
Married to a former journalist from the popular Radio Broadcasters' Association (RPA) and he himself a member of MSD, Therance and his wife Diane became targets of the government crack down on dissidents and critics.
After receiving several threats and a raid on their house, Therance, Diane and their three children sought asylum in France, where they have been living since January.
"The government feared the MSD movement, because it brought together young people especially, young people of all ethnic groups, Hutus and Tutsis. That's is why the government started targeting us," he said.
The family has settled in the neighbourhood of Creteil, on the outskirts of Paris, where life has taken on a new kind of normalcy.
Diane now works in procurement, while Therance waits for clearance from French authorities to allow him to work.
Today, Therance is bringing a touch of Burundi to his new home, cooking a popular dish from the country made from cassava flour and beef stew.
He says the family has adjusted to life in France. His children are back in school. Therance keeps busy with household chores. The former bar and restaurant owner loves to cook.
"It's difficult for some, but I think I was lucky because I have been cooking since I was 15 years old, because I owned a bar and restaurant, so cooking was nothing for me," he added.
Even in the safety and comfort that France offers, Burundi is never far from Therance' mind.
"Of all the governments we had in Burundi over the years, this is the first government that we have seen doing what it has been doing, a government that's killing its own people as the world watches, a government that's starving its own people, and a government that's stealing from its own people and destroying their houses with no warning. I don't know what the future is for Burundi. I really feel sorry for the people in Burundi," he added.
Continuing instability has forced Burundi to rely on modest revenues from coffee and tea exports for foreign exchange after some western donors who blame the government for not acting to end the violence suspended aid.
As the political unrest deepens back home, Therance is hopeful that one day his family will return to Burundi and help rebuild the country.
- Copyright Holder: FILE REUTERS (CAN SELL)
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None