A senior Burundian police official has publicly threatened the lives of members of the main opposition party and their families, if they organise “clandestine meetings”, according to an audio recording heard by AFP Friday.
The threats were made by a provincial commissioner as the opposition National Congress for Freedom (CNL) party — the country’s second biggest political force — denounced “ferocious” repression suffered by its members since February.
“I would like to say to anyone who holds a clandestine nocturnal meeting at their home that… you will be attracting misfortune on your entire family,” Jerome Ntibibogora, commissioner of eastern Muyinga province, allegedly said at a public meeting in Gasogwe on Wednesday, according to the recording.
Several witnesses present confirmed the authenticity of the recording to AFP.
Ntibibogora said he had “explosive devices” and that it was “enough to throw two of them” into a house.
“If you want to disrupt security, I’ll finish with you there, and if you’re with your wife and children, you’ll go together,” he said in response to questions about a crackdown on CNL activists.
Contacted by AFP, the National Police and Interior Ministry declined to comment on the alleged remarks.
A government official, however, criticised “an excess of zeal” on the part of the commissioner.
“A police officer cannot make such comments because they do not correspond to government policy,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Ntibibogora led the police in the southern districts of Bujumbura — the country’s capital until February — at the height of a 2015 crisis.
He was one of the leading figures in the crackdown on protests against the candidacy of President Pierre Nkurunziza for a controversial third term.
– Turmoil –
Burundi has been in turmoil since the president announced in April 2015 that he intended to stand again for the presidency. He was re-elected in July of that year.
The violence has claimed at least 1,200 lives and displaced more than 400,000 between April 2015 and May 2017, according to estimates by the International Criminal Court which has opened an investigation.
CNL spokesman Aime Magera condemned a “real manhunt” against party activists, claiming that 135 had been arrested since mid-February, mainly “on the pretext of holding unauthorised meetings”.
“Many of them were tortured including one who died of his wounds” in northeastern Kirundo province, while four others have been reported missing in central Gitega province, he said.
The incidents were confirmed to AFP by police sources, witnesses independent local media.
The CNL is due to hold a congress on Saturday in Bujumbura to appoint local officials.
“We want to remove the excuse he has put forward to explain these arrests, namely that our activists hold unauthorised, clandestine meetings because we do not have officially recognised local officials,” the spokesman added.