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Africa

Burundi: UN investigators begin probe into killings

A team of investigators is in Burundi to probe abuses and arbitrary killings in the country that have been going on since President Pierre Nkurunziza was controversially re-elected for a third term in April 2015.

Since the re-election of Pierre Nkurunziza, Burundi has been embroiled in political turmoil and so far 400 people have lost their lives as a result. The three investigators from Algeria, Colombia and South Africa are due to present their preliminary findings in late March.

The investigators' visit coincides with the discovery of a mass grave that authorities said contained remains of government supporters. The team also started its work a day before a summit of leaders from the East Africa Community (EAC), of which Burundi is a member, kicks off in Arusha, Tanzania.

Heading the team is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns. He told DW that his team will be meeting the government and opposition as well as civil society groups within the country and outside, "and we hope that they will be able to shade more light on what has happened in the country, in particular to look at impunity."

"It's clear that there have been many violations but it's not clear who exactly is responsible and so the main focus will be to strengthen the system of accountability," Heyns added. Rights groups have in the past accused Burundi of politically motivated killings that have targeted opposition politicians and activists.

The authorities exhumed three bodies from the site in the predominantly anti-government neighborhood of Mutakura, after inviting members of the press to cover the event on Monday.

According to Bujumbura mayor Freddy Mbonimpa, one of the alleged killers "told us that there were about 30 bodies in the grave," after surrendering to the security forces.

A cache of weapons and suspected rebels

Burundi has accused neighboring Rwanda arming rebels to carry out attacks on its territory

Burundi not on agenda at EAC summit

An EAC communiqué announcing the summit did not mention the Burundi crisis among the list of items to be considered by regional leaders when they meet, much to the disappointment of Burundi Civil Society organizations (CSOs).

"We are deeply concerned that the Burundi crisis is not on the agenda of the Summit despite the worsening situation and request that it be given due priority," the CSOs said in a statement.

At the summit, Burundi is expected to take over the rotating chairmanship of the EAC. Burundi's Minister in charge of East African Community Affairs, Leontine Nzeyimana, confirmed that Burundi was prepared to take over the chairmanship.

"We're very much prepared because we've chaired already; it's not the first time we will be chairing the summit," she told DW.

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