Emmanuel Niyonkuru, who served as Environment Minister of Burundi for a year and a half, was assassinated in the nation’s capital of Bujumbura on Sunday, January 1. The murder took place while the 54-year-old was on his way home from a New Year’s Eve celebration he had been partaking in since the night before.
According to The New York Times, a woman was detained for questioning in connection with the killing, after having been with Niyonkuru at the time of his death. The president of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, confirmed that the murder was indeed an assassination, via his official Twitter account. Condolences were offered to not only the family of the deceased, but to all Burundians on the whole as they grieved the loss of the Environment Minister. The killing, continues Nkurunziza, will “not go unpunished” with the government vowing to find the person responsible, and bring them to justice.
It is believed, reveals Reuters, that the Burundi Environment Minister’s death is related to violent protests which broke out in April of 2015, following the president’s decision to run for a third term. This choice directly violates the nation’s constitutional laws, which clearly state that the leader of the nation may only sit for two five-year terms.
Nkurunziza, however, may very well see re-election. His first term, according to the Burundi Constitutional Court, did not count as he had been elected by parliament and not the nation’s voters. The success of his second bid was attributed to political corruption, and as such was boycotted by most of his rivals. Other nation’s leaders also condemned the bid, including those in the United States and throughout Europe, who feel his re-election would not be free or fair.
Three hundred thousand people have been displaced as a result of the violence, reports Deutsche Welle, with hundreds not having survived. Since it began, the United Nations started issuing statements detailing their concern over the human rights abuses that officials have a strong suspicion may be happening in Burundi. These include what are known as summary executions, which is when the alleged criminal is killed immediately following the accusation of their crime, and not given any fair trial or justice whatsoever. The rumors were further sparked in October 2016, when the nation moved to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC). In doing so, the nation’s officials managed to make themselves look more guilty when it came to speculation that horrific things were happening in the country and politicians were turning a blind eye.
By Lorelai Zelmerlow