Members of the Burundian armed forces stationed in relatively small posts around the country lived in close proximity to civilians and often appropriated their property or extorted services from them. Some deliberately killed or otherwise injured civilians in the course of robberies or as punishment for noncompliance with their orders. If such crimes were reported to the commanding officers of the accused, military authorities rarely investigated and, more rarely still, prosecuted such crimes. At most, they transferred the accused to another post. As one civilian commented:
Soldiers frequently required services from civilians who lived near their posts, such as providing firewood, fetching water, or transporting materials. Sometimes they obliged civilians to transport military supplies, like ammunition, into combat areas, at considerable risk to themselves.135 In Bubanza province, taxi-bicyclists who ply their trade along the Muzinda road complained about the demands of soldiers. 136 “We’re forced to provide services to the soldiers,” said one man, “unless we want to be arrested or beaten.” 137
The consequences of refusing to do what the soldiers wanted were sometimes more serious. In the Musaga neighborhood of Bujumbura, a soldier from the Gitoko post deliberately killed a resident of Second Avenue because he had refused to carry water for him.138 In a similar case in Kamenge, also a neighborhood in Bujumbura, a soldier killed a taxi-bicyclist for having refused to give him a ride back to his post. The soldier fired into the crowd that attempted to intervene in the dispute and was himself beaten by the crowd after he killed the man.139
Local people complain about exactions by soldiers at the military post of Muhanambogo in the hills above Bujumbura. One man said:
According to local people, soldiers killed seven civilians at the hill Mubeye, Bubanza province, in what was apparently a robbery. One witness said, “They’ve been here for two months and we’ve ended up being able to recognize them.”141 In early April, soldiers from the Gatumba camp killed seven civilians at Nyamabere, between Buringa and Maramvya, on the border between Bubanza and Bujumbura rural provinces, and stole the bicycles that the men had been using to transport loads of charcoal for sale in Bujumbura.142 In another case four people were killed at Musagara hill, Bubanza, and soon after local people saw a military truck rolling by carrying off sacks of rice and other food.143 On June 11 people in the same area captured soldiers of the 15th battalion of Muzinda who were trying to steal bicycles and took them to their commanding officer.
According to one elderly man, the officer “nearly shot us,” and did nothing about the attempted theft.144
In some cases of killings by soldiers, there was no clear reason for their behavior. During the night of July 15, soldiers in Kinama, a zone in the northern part of Bujumbura, killed three young Guardians of the Peace. It seems that they had at first taken them for rebel combatants, but they killed them even after they had checked their identity papers. They killed one by bayonet. 145
While engaged in their war against government soldiers, combatants of both rebel movements sometimes have deliberately targeted civilians, often because they knew them to have or believed them to have links to the authorities. In other cases, they have killed civilians to demonstrate that government officials could not or would not protect the people of a given area.
In June in Mwaro province, FDD combatants killed two civilians and wounded one when they attacked Nyabihanga commune and in a later incident they killed three civilians and burned local government buildings and those of a cooperative when they attacked Rusaka commune. They killed four civilians during an attack at Nyankara hill, Makamba province on May 28 and killed two others in an attack on a camp for Tutsi displaced persons in Ngozi province on June 20.146
In the past, both rebel movements have targeted local administrative officials. The head of Twinyoni quarter in Bujumbura was killed on May 31, for example, reportedly by FNL combatants.147 But it was the FDD that especially increased such attacks in during the first nine months of 2003. The Minister of Interior and Public Security Salvator Ntihabose condemned the FDD practice, saying that the FDD “avoid any contact with the government army, they plunder social infrastructure and kill or kidnap local administrative officials.”148
On June 2, FDD combatants abducted the administrator of Cendajuru commune, Cankuzo province, after he complained at a security meeting about the departure of some sixty persons from his commune to join the FDD.149 At the same meeting, which was chaired by the governor, the adminstrator accused the FDD of attacking his commune from bases in Tanzania. On June 16 FDD combatants attacked the commune of Gatara, Kayanza province; they kidnapped the local administrator and looted his house. Not long before he had arrested a suspected member of the FDD and had sent him to the brigade in Kayanza.150 The administrator of Rusaka commune, Mwaro province, was kidnapped, apparently by FDD combatants, but was freed after paying an undisclosed amount in ransom. The administrator of Mutimbuzi commune, Bujumbura-rural, was the target of an assassination attempt, apparently by FDD combatants; he survived but his bodyguard was killed.151 In late June, FDD combatants abducted the head of the zone Muzinda and the head of zone Muyebe, commune Musigati near the Muyange cantonment site in the troubled province of Bubanza. The official from Muzinda was later found dead.152 On July 17, FDD combatants kidnapped a local official of Gisuru commune, Ruyigi province, and the next day they briefly detained the administrator of Kayogoro commune, Makamba.153
On June 14 an armed group attacked a bar in Makamba and killed Gerard Buryo, an Uprona member of parliament, and a soldier. At the same time they abducted two persons who were later released in return for a ransom. Authorities said that the assailants were FDD combatants.154
On June 29 four members of parliament, their driver, and seven other civilians were taken hostage as they were driving towards Gisuru in Ruyigi. One of the members of parliament and five other persons have since been released. The FDD took responsibility for the kidnapping, saying it was a warning to the government to end its propaganda campaign against their movement.155
Armed men kidnapped three Burundian employees of international humanitarian agencies in two separate incidents the same day in Makamba province and demanded a large ransom for their safe return. The three were later released unharmed. Authorities charged the FDD with this abduction but presented no proof of the claim.156
Both movements abducted civilians also for short or long-term service. In early April the FDD forcibly recruited forty young men for military service; the unwilling recruits escaped some two weeks later in Murwi commune, Cibitoke province.157 Similarly the FDD forcibly enrolled some thirty young men who later escaped from their base in Kibira forest on June 18, in an incident mentioned above.158
Soon after, the FDD abducted fifteen persons, two of them still children. One of them, a fifteen-year-old told a Human Rights Watch researcher about how he had been mistreated by FDD combatants. He was captured one evening with six others, as he was returning home. He and one other were school pupils. He was ordered to carry a bag of ammunition but found it was too heavy for him to carry. Instead he was told to look after cattle that the group had taken. He and the group walked five nights before reaching the Kibira forest. “There we had to cut bamboo,” said the youngster. “We had to work very, very hard to build shelters. I was very hungry and was given only a little cooked manioc to eat. I ran away. I had to; if not, I would have died.”159 Another civilian, abducted by the FDD the evening before his marriage, showed the Human Rights Watch researcher large wounds on his left shoulder and lower back. After he had tried to escape, his captors beat him so badly that he could no longer walk. The combatants had then thrown him in a hole for two weeks. “There,” he said, “I was not allowed to stand up. I had to stay lying down or crouched over.”160
In a mid-May attack on Gihanga commune, Bubanza province, the FNL forced five civilians to accompany them to carry the goods they had just looted.161 Other FNL combatants successfully attacked the military post at Mubone, Bujumbura Rural, on June 3 and forced local residents to transport the ammunitions and other goods that they seized there.162
After looting goods on Kigamba, Musenga, Muyange and Sorero hills in Butezi, Ruyigi, in mid-May, FDD combatants abducted an eighteen-year-old young man to serve as their guide. 163On June 16, FDD combatants reportedly abducted two high school girls from Nyakayi in Butezi commune, Ruyigi province for an unknown purpose.164
FNL combatants including both men and women attacked Gihanga commune on May 18. While the children in their ranks prayed and sang, the combatants looted bicycles and goats and burned one vehicle.165 In another incident FNL combatants wounded one person, burned twenty houses, and looted cattle and goats at Murwi commune, Cibitoke province, on May 20.166
In early September FDD and FNL combatants began fighting each other, first in parts of Bujumbura rural, Bubanza, and Muramvya provinces and soon after in the streets of Bujumbura. The forces sometimes engaged in skirmishes, especially at the start in the rural areas, but more recently they have targeted specific persons presumed to be linked to the rival movement. In many cases, the combatants deliberately killed family members or others found in the company of their supposed target.
An old woman in dirty, damp clothes related how a skirmish between FDD and FNL had forced her to flee her home in Mubimbi commune, Bujumbura rural, three weeks previously. She said:
A twelve-year-old girl in the zone Kayange, commune Rugazi, hesitantly described how FDD “soldiers” came to chase away the FNL.
By early October the combatants moved their struggle into the crowded and poorer neighborhoods of Kamenge and Kinama in Bujumbura. In the Gitega quartier of Kinama, FNL combatants killed a suspected member of the FDD in broad daylight. The FDD then killed two persons supposedly linked to the FNL and burned down a house.169 One October 22 FDD combatants killed two persons in Taba quartier of the Kamenge zone, one of them a fifteen-year old youth who reportedly had no connection with any rebel movement. They also broke down the doors of some houses, burned down others, and looted possessions.170 During the night of November 3 combatants, said by local residents to be FDD, attacked several houses and abducted four persons whom they executed a short distance away.171
By the end of the month, authorities estimated that at least twenty persons had been killed in clashes between FDD and FNL in the city and its suburbs. The actual number was almost certainly higher to judge from scattered reports collected by a Human Rights Watch researcher. An undetermined number of those slain were persons who were not combatants and some of them had no link whatsoever with either political group.172
Both FDD and FNL combatants burned the houses of those thought to be associated with the other group and looted property from the homes of people who had fled the violence.
Witnesses can sometimes identify the attackers in these incidents, but often they cannot or will not do so, usually from fear of reprisals.
Far from the site of diplomatic negotiations, fear and flight are part of the daily routine of most people living in Kamenge and Kinama districts. They speak of lists drawn up by the FDD naming those to be targeted next.173 One young man said:
In several cases witnesses reported that soldiers responded to calls for help and intervened to protect them, but more often victims say that the military or police do little or nothing to stop violence by the combatants. Authorities imposed a curfew on the parts of the city most troubled by violence and in early October arrested thirty-six persons in a sweep to identify supposed rebels living in the city.
While these measures may have brought some temporary improvement, by late October there was at least one part of Bujumbura where the FDD combatants rather than city officials controlled the movement of citizens. They put up barriers and determined who could move between the Gituro quartier of Kamenge, where they are in large numbers, and neighboring Taba quartier which is said to house many FNL adherents. They interrogated passers-by, including children, before deciding whether or not they would be allowed to pass the barrier.175 One witness who observed this conduct said:
Combatants of both the FDD and the FNL have set up bases in areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo adjacent to Burundi, particularly along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, south of the city of Uvira in the region of Fizi, and north of Uvira in the Ruzizi plain, which is separated from Cibitoke province of Burundi by the Ruzizi River. Here they prepare for raids into Burundi but they sometimes also attack Congolese civilians, usually to steal their property. In some cases they killed civilians and in others, they raped women.
In one such attack on October 6, combatants identified by local people as FDD killed some fifteen people who had been working in their fields at Ndunda, a village just north of Uvira and on the Burundi border. Most of the victims were women andincluded: Ruzabeti, Charlote, Majaribu, Mama Guylain, Lukogo, Pendege, Nyihasha, Nyirabonore, Lena, Kyubwa, Kiponda, Kaseti, and Michel.177
On October 9 rebels abducted nine people from Kiliba, an operation also attributed to the FDD.178
FDD officials denied involvement in these crimes and blamed them instead on the FNL.179
One man from this area, thin, tired, and haggard, sadly recounted these abuses to a Human Rights Watch researcher. He and his neighbors no longer count the number of ambushes, abductions, rapes, and cases of looting. North of Uvira the villages near the Burundi border are empty: Namijembo, Kimuka, Mwaba, Ruziha, and Kajori. The man left his own home village after his wife was raped by four FNL combatants. “It’s easy to know who they are,” he said. “We have lived together with them along the border; they speak Kirundi.” He described commander Bitarumunyu, discussed above, as an FNL leader based in the DRC but operating also in Cibitoke province in Burundi. Talking of how people have all fled their homes because of these attacks, the witness said:
A young Congolese woman said that she did not know the difference between FDD and FNL combatants but that she knew that those who attacked her area were from Burundi. “They come in a group,” she said. “They are guerrillas. They come to take girls to make them their wives. Today we no longer go to work in our fields along the road to Burundi. It is too dangerous.” 181
Both the FDD and the FNL used Burundian children for military service in their forces in the DRC. Dozens of these children, transported from Burundi, have been forced to fend for themselves in the DRC after having been abandoned by the rebel troops or after having fled the rebels following ill-treatment.182
134 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, June 18, 2003.
135 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, June 18, 2003.
136 Radio Publique Africaine, news broadcast, May 29, 2003.
137 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, June 18, 2003.
138 Iteka, « Un militaire tue une personne à Bujumbura , ” May 21, 2003.
139 Human Rights Watch interview, Brussels, June 19, 2003; Iteka, “Un militaire tue une personne à Kamenge,” May 12, 2003.
140 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, October 8, 2003.
141 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, June 18, 2003.
142 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, June 3, 2003.
143 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, June 18, 2003.
144 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, June 18, 2003.
145 Iteka, 16 juillet : « Des militaire tuent par erreur trois gardiens de la paix à Kinama »
146 OCHA Situation Report, 16-22 June, 2003; Agence France Presse, “Burundi: deux civils et un soldat tués dans une attaque rebelled,” June 21. 2003.
147 OCHA Situation Report, 19 May-1 June, 2003.
148 IRIN, “Burundi: Rebel group steps up attacks,” June 17, 2003.
149 Iteka, “L’administrateur de la commune Cendajuru enlevé par les rebelles des FDD,” June 4, 2003.
150 Iteka, “Intensification d’attaques rebelles au nord et center du pays,” June 17, 2003.
151 IRIN, “Burundi: Rebel group steps up attacks,” June 17, 2003.
152 Iteka, “La Sécurité de plus en plus perturbée dans beaucoup de coins du pays,” June 21, 2003.
153 IRIN, “Burundi: Kidnappers demand ransom for humanitarian workers,” July 18, 2003; Radio Publique Africaine, news broadcast, July 18, 2003.
154 Iteka, “Un parlementaire tué dans une attaque à Makamba,” June 16, 2003.
155 Agence France Presse, “Députés enlevés: FDD exigent que le Frodebu cesse de les ‘discréditer,’” June 29, 2003; IRIN, “Burundi: Rebels free MP, four other hostages,” July 3, 2003.
156 IRIN, “Burundi: Kidnappers demand ransom for humanitarian workers, July 18, 2003; Iteka, “Des rançons sont toujours exigées pour la liberation du personnel humanitaire enlevé,” July 16, 2003.
157 Radio Publique Africaine, news broadcast, April 23, 2003.
158 See the section on cantonment.
159 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, August 29, 2003.
160 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, August 29, 2003.
161 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, June 3, 2003.
162 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, June 9, 2003.
163 Human Rights Watch interview, Butezi, June 17, 2003.
164 Human Rights Watch interview, Ruyigi, June 17, 2003.
165 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, June 2, 2003.
166 OCHA Situation Report 19 May-1 June, 2003.
167 Human Rights Watch interview, Kinama, Mubimbi, Bujumbura rural, October 7, 2003.
168 Human Rights Watch interview, Muzinda, October 24, 2003.
169 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, October 16, 2003.
170 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, October 24, 2003.
171 Radio Isanganiro, News, November 3, 2003.
172 IRIN, Burundi, “Governtment Officials, Rebels Say Security Improved,” October 31, 2003; Iteka, “Le conflit entre le Palipehutu-Fnl et le Cndd-Fdd inquiète la population de la zone Kamenge, October 24, 2003.
173 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, November 4, 2003.
174 Human Rights Watch interview, October 16, 2003.
175 Human Rights Watch interview, Kamenge, October 24, 2003; IRIN, Burundi: “Tension abates in northern Bujumbura suburb.”
176 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, October 24, 2003.
177 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, October 13, 2003.
178 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, October 13, 2003.
179 Irin, “DRC: MONUC probing massacre of 16 in Ndunda, South Kivu Province,” October 13, 2003; Communiqué no. 75 CNDD-FDD, “Le Mouvement CNDD-FDD ne se bat pas dans la forêt de la Rukoko et n’est pas associe au Palipehutu-FNL,” October 15, 2003.
180 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, October 2, 2003.
181 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, October 2, 2003.
182 Human Rights Watch interview, Uvira, November 5, 2003. See below for testimony from two such child soldiers.