Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 August 2015
The United States government has issued a statement, following the killing of a top Burundian general and close aide to President Pierre Nkurunziza yesterday, Sunday in a drive-by shooting in the capital Bujumbura, heightening tensions after a disputed presidential poll.
General Adolphe Nshimirimana was killed while traveling in his car in Bujumbura’s Kamenge neighbourhood.
Three of his bodyguards were also killed in the attack, according to government sources.
The US State Department statement reads:
“The United States condemns the murder of General Adolphe Nshimirimana in Bujumbura today and urges calm and restraint in the aftermath of the attack. We call on all sides to renounce violence and to redouble their efforts to engage in a transparent, inclusive, and comprehensive political dialogue.
“The path forward must address foundational issues, including respect for human rights, freedom of the press and other fundamental freedoms, and respect for the Arusha Agreement and its power-sharing provisions. Restoration of dialogue is urgent, and all parties must work together in pursuit of a consensus, peaceful path forward for the people of Burundi.”
The former army chief of staff and head of military intelligence, Gen. Nshimirimana was widely viewed as President Nkurunziza’s right-hand man and personal security chief.
Confirming the assassination in a Twitter post, the presidency’s communications chief Willy Nyamitwe said, “I have lost a brother, a companion in the struggle. The sad reality is that Gen. Adolphe Nshimirimana is no longer with this world.”
The brazen attack in broad daylight in the heart of the Burundian capital occurred around 8am local time, when four attackers wearing military fatigues approached Gen. Nshimirimana’s car, sprayed the interior with bullets, then drove off, according to witnesses.
“Two had machine guns and two others rocket launchers. They came in a military lorry and returned back in the same car,” Paul, a Bujumbura taxi driver, told Reuters.
Pictures circulating on social media sites showed a black bullet-riddled SUV with its front tyres flattened and side windows shot out.
The assassination came just over a week after President Nkurunziza was declared the outright winner of controversial elections, securing a third consecutive term despite opposition protests and international condemnation.
Known and feared across Burundi
Widely seen as the country’s de facto internal security chief, Gen. Nshimirimana was a feared figure in Burundi, according to FRANCE 24’s East Africa correspondent Julia Steers.
“He was known throughout the country — and feared throughout the country,” said Steers. “He had a lot of power within the regime. He played a large role in recent months in putting down a coup attempt, as well as suppressing demonstrations – quite violently – against the president’s third term.”
Burundi has been in chaos since April, when Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term in office, a move Western powers and opponents said violated the constitution and a peace deal that ended an ethnically charged civil war in 2005.
Months of protests and a coup attempt were quelled, but the situation remains tense in Bujumbura, said Steers.
“Since the disputed election, the situation on the streets has been quite calm but very tense. There’s a culture of fear,” said Steers. “In the past few weeks, there’s been an uptick in political assassinations and extrajudicial killings of those involved in the protests. There have been many allegations that Gen. Adolphe [Nshimirimana] and his team played a large role in these killings. Those allegations were coming from the general population and also from human rights groups on the ground.”
Sunday’s assassination has raised fears that the violence could split the fragile East African nation along ethnic lines and lead to another civil war, an alarming prospect for a region still scared by the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda where 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus were slaughtered. Burundi has a similar ethnic make-up.
Western diplomats have also warned a rift in the army could push Burundi back into conflict. The last 12-year civil war pitted the military, which at the time was led by the ethnic Tutsi minority, against rebel factions of the majority Hutus, the biggest of which was led by Nkurunziza.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)