Burundi Unrest Leaves 720 People Dead in Two Years, Group Says

  • Opposition says almost 1,200 killed since April 2015
  • Situation has calmed down, according ruling party spokeswoman

Burundi’s political crisis, which has left at least 720 people dead over the past two years, is easing with the number of arrests declining, according to the country’s state-run human-rights agency.

While as many as 60 people were being detained daily at the height of the crisis in 2015, the number has dropped to between 10 to 15, Jean Baptiste Baribonekeza, president of the Independent National Commission for Human Rights, told reporters Wednesday in the capital, Bujumbura.

“The situation is that tension is coming down slowly,” Baribonekeza said.

Landlocked Burundi has been roiled by violence since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to seek a third term in office, a move that contravened the landlocked nation’s laws, according to opposition parties and civil society organizations. The unrest has forced 400,000 people to flee their homes, the United Nations refugee agency said in February, estimating that the number could climb to half a million by the end of 2017.

Ligue Iteka, an independent human-rights group, estimates the number of people who have died in the unrest at 1,193, according to its exiled leader, Anshaire Nikoyagize. Most of those were killed by security forces, he said on his Facebook account. Another 424 people have disappeared, while 14 mass graves have been discovered in around the country.

While Burundi’s government has dismissed the reports of mass graves, it has denied visas to United Nations investigators to probe the claims.

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