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A year on from Gatumba, Burundi's laughing killers remain free

rw | 11.08.2005 13:10 | Anti-militarism | Anti-racism | World

On August 13th 2004, Burundian Hutu-extremists massacred 152 Congolese Tutsis at the Gatumba refugee camp. The next day, Palipehutu-FNL admitted responsibility, boasting that the international community was powerless to stop them. A year on, it looks as if they were right.

On August 13th 2004, 152 Congolese Tutsi men, women and children were shot, burned and hacked to death by Palipehutu-FNL (commonly known as "FNL"), at the Gatumba refugee camp in western Burundi.

In response, the Burundian government issued arrest warrants for the FNL leaders Agathon Rwasa and Pasteur Habimana, stating their intention to refer the case to the International Criminal Court. Regional leaders declared the FNL a "terrorist organisation". The UN launched an investigation, and demanded that the killers be brought to justice.

Asked about the status of the Gatumba investigation earlier this year, the UN's Burundi office said "it is a wait and see situation". No further updates have been given, and it appears that the investigation has been suspended. When Agathon Rwasa appeared publicly in Tanzania in May 2005, no attempt was made to arrest him. Rwasa's crimes were set aside in the hope that this would help bring peace to Burundi.

Human rights groups have long argued that allowing the killers to remain at large can only undermine the prospects for genuine peace, and entrench Burundi's "culture of impunity". These concerns appear to have been borne out. The agreement Rwasa signed in May 2005 fell apart within days. Local media recently reported that 300 civilians have been killed by the FNL in the last two months.

How many more innocent people have to die before Gatumba's victims get justice? How many more broken promises will Burundians have to hear?

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  1. More info on Gatumba — rw