At the beginning of April 2017,  members of the youth league of the ruling party of Burundi gathered in the north of the country at the offices of the ruling party, as reported by Human Rights Watch (HRW). Harrowing video footage has since surfaced on social media showing the group of over 200 youths chanting “impregnate the opposition so they give birth to Imbonerakure!”.

The event was subsequently condemned by the Burundi government, who claimed they would investigate the youth group. However, the climate of impunity surrounding the Imbonerakure is well known among the people of Burundi, and little is expected from the government regarding the issue.

History of Violence

This is not the first time the Burundi Imbonerakure has been accused of violent sexual assault. In July 2016 it was alleged by HRW that members of the group had invaded the homes of suspected opposition activists, and gang raped the women and girls they found. In this instance, the Burundi government denied the allegations, dismissing them as “falsehoods”.

The Imbonerakure have been terrorizing Burundians since 2015, when president Pierre Nkurunziza controversially ran for a third term of presidency, supported by the youth party. The Imbonerakure use rape as a weapon to overpower and intimidate opposition supporters. But women and children are not their only victims; they have also been known to kill men in front of their families or abduct them and hold them for ransom.

As a result, victims suffer long term physical and psychological consequences. Due to a lack of impunity for the youth group, victims continue to live in fear. The Mukwege Foundation is calling for an international response whereby European governments should pressure Burundi into punishing those responsible for these crimes.


Image: ONUB Photo/ Mario Rizzolio. 02 May 2006, Mirombero, Bubanza, Burundi.


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