Burundi crisis to heighten following latest assassination

Just a month after the assassination of Adolphe Nshimirimana, a top Burundian general and a close aide to President Pierre Nkurunziza, an official of the opposition Union for Peace and Development (UDP) party, was shot dead yesterday in Burundi.

Patrice Gahungu, the spokesperson for the opposition party, according to witnesses was shot dead in his car around his Bujumbura Gasenyi District home. Witnesses say he was followed by unidentified men before he was killed. This is two months after the death of the party’s leader, Zedi Feruzi in May.

Gahungu is a well known on the political scene in Burundi and has been involved in a tussle with the ruling government long before now. In 2010, he was arrested, detained and formally accused of threatening state security by the agents of the National Intelligence Service (SNR). He was brutally tortured and also claimed to have received death threats from state officials.

Although there is no established source in connection with the assassinations, the political unrest and conflict between the ruling and opposition parties are heavily tied to them. There have been rumors that this assassination is an act of retaliation and revenge for the death of General Adolphe Nshimirimana. Some Burundians who are pro-Nkurunziza had vowed not to sweep Nshimirimana’s death under the carpet, despite the president’s plea to restrain from revenge.

Burundi has been faced with political crisis since the peace deal in 2006 and the situation recently heightened after the re-election of Pierre Nkurunziza for a third-term. The opposition and other human rights bodies have been relentless in showing their disapproval of the ruling government and there are speculations that these assassinations are being carried out by both parties to weaken opposing strongholds. Anti-government protests and post-election crisis have led to death of many civilians and the assassination of local leaders.

The re-election has given birth to unrest and instability in the country; however, assassinations might birth more trouble if the situation is not brought under control. Revenge and retaliation by different anti-government parties and factions might heighten the crisis and finally defeat the spirit of the peace deal.

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