- The provincial governor of Bubanza and his bodyguard were killed in an ambush yesterday. The army attributes the attack to the National Liberation Forces (FNL), which is the last rebel group still waging war on the government and civilians of Burundi. The killing could lead to an intensification of armed clashes in Burundi.
The FNL however has denied any knowledge of the killing of Governor Isaie Bigirimana. As accusations and counter-accusations flew among rebels and former rebels, it was therefore not clear who had gunned down the governor of Bubanza province, about 25 kilometres north of Bujumbura, the Burundian capital.
The killing of Governor Bigirimana could pose a threat to the fragile peace and transition process in Burundi, which is trying to end 11 years of warfare and bloodshed. All warring parties except the radical FNL Hutu militia have joined Burundi's national transition and reconciliation government, which is currently preparing a new constitution and democratic elections.
Bubanza province, located in the western part of Burundi, close to the capital, is one of the five provinces in the country where armed rebel activity still occurs. Neighbouring Bujumbura Rural province is most affected by the FNL's armed activities.
The assassination of Governor Bigirimana was seen as a bad omen by the small UN peacekeeping mission in Burundi, ONUB, which is trying to provide security for civilians in the country. The murders of the governor and his bodyguard were "deplorable", the top UN envoy for Burundi said in a statement today.
Carolyn McAskie, the Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the eastern African nation, said she was equally concerned about renewed threats against the refugees from the Banyamulenge, community in Burundi - Tutsi originating from Congo Kinshasa (DRC). Hutu extremist rebels last year launched a bloody attack on a Banyamulenge refugee camp in Burundi.
- Any incitement to hatred, any demonisation of a community living on Burundi's soil and any targeted violence against individuals or ethnic groups are not acceptable, Ms McAskie said in a statement. Bubanza province, which borders Congo Kinshasa, houses a significant Banyamulenge population.
She also urged the Burundian government and the country's political leaders to return to secure conditions by urgently removing any obstacle to the establishment of new defence and security structures. ONUB added that respect of human rights, international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions was a legal obligation for all Burundians.
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