Burundi: The Gatumba Massacre

War Crimes and Political Agendas

On August 13, 2004 a force of armed combatants, many of them members of the Forces for National Liberation  (Forces pour la Liberation Nationale, FNL), massacred at least 152 Congolese civilians and wounded another 106 at Gatumba refugee camp, near Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi.   The FNL is a predominantly Hutu rebel movement known for its hostility to Tutsi and the victims were largely Banyamulenge, a group often categorized with Tutsi. But the massacre was more than just another case of ethnically-targeted slaughter in a region known for such horrors. At the intersection of two faltering peace processes, the attack underlined the continuing political conflicts within both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi and made them worse. Various contenders for power within these two countries as well as parties toconflicts across national boundaries immediately tried to appropriate the massacre for their own political ends. In so doing they increased the likelihood of armed conflict and the slaughter of still more civilians.

Human Rights Watch researchers conducted extensive interviews among victims, residents of Gatumba, Burundian military and civilian authorities, and officials of various UN agencies. This report is based on that research.