Ruling Party’s Youth Gang-Raped Burundi Women, Rights Group Says

Members of the Burundian ruling party’s youth wing have gang-raped women since a tide of political protests swept the East African nation last year, Human Rights Watch said.

In several provinces, men with guns, sticks or knives attacked homes and raped women, the New York-based advocacy group said Wednesday, citing interviews with more than 70 victims at a Tanzanian refugee camp. Fourteen women said they recognized at least one of their assailants as belonging to the Imbonerakure, a wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party, according to the group. In other cases, the rapists were said to wear police uniforms.

The mobile phone of government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba was busy when Bloomberg called three times seeking comment.

“Attackers from Burundi’s ruling party youth league tied up, brutally beat, and gang-raped women, often with their children nearby,” said Skye Wheeler, women’s rights emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. Along with their injuries, survivors report longer-term consequences such as sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies and depression, the group said.

Landlocked Burundi has been riven by unrest that’s left more than 470 people dead since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza said he’d run for another term, a move political opponents said was unconstitutional. The female victims cited by Human Rights Watch said male family members, some of whom belonged to opposition parties, were also targeted with abductions and killings.

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