Last weekend, about 200 members of Burundi’s ruling party youth league, the Imbonerakure, gathered at an office of the ruling party in northern Burundi.
Then they started singing: Impregnate the opposition so they give birth to Imbonerakure… There are lots of girls. Impregnate them, Imbonerakure!
As they marched through the centre of Ntega, a commune in Kirundo province, chanting their vitriol, local authorities made no attempt to stop them. A witness at last Saturday’s rally told me that fear ran through the crowd lining the streets. They’d seen Imbonerakure gatherings before, but not such a large group and never using this kind of threatening language.
When the video of the rally circulated on social media a few days later, ruling party officials couldn’t deny the actions of their members.
The ruling party condemned the event and said it was investigating. “Unfortunately, contrary to the ideals of the [ruling party], certain youth sang a song that doesn’t correspond with the morals or the ideology of the party,” they said in a statement.
Many feel the statement will do little to dissuade the Imbonerakure. “They just want to appease the national and international opinion,” said one resident. “But [the ruling party] won’t go after them.”
Everyone in the area knows the brutality of some Imbonerakure members. Since the crisis began two years ago, some members have raped the wives and daughters of opposition members, beat people to death with clubs, and tortured opponents. They control many roadblocks throughout the province.
The songs at the rally by the Imbonerakure aren’t empty threats: Rape by members of the Imbonerakure and security forces continues in Burundi.
Recently, Human Rights Watch interviewed three women who said they were raped in or near the capital Bujumbura by men they believe were members of the Imbonerakure or security forces in mid and late 2016. All had male family members who were killed prior to their rape.
The video shows a side of some members of the Imbonerakure the ruling party wants to hide. They revel in their impunity and some rape women as punishment. Burundians know this. Now the rest of the world does too.