Burundians in exile in neighbouring countries have expressed renewed fears over their safety, after the body of an exiled Burundian member of an opposition party fighting against the country's President Pierre Nkurunziza was found in Kenya.
Burundi's current political crisis pits supporters of Nkurunziza against those who say his re-election in July for a third term violated the constitution of a nation still reeling from a civil war that occurred between 1993 and 2005, leaving 300,000 people dead.
First execution outside of Burundi?
Jean de Dieu Kabura, a member of the opposition Mouvement pour la Solidarité et le Développement (MSD) party, was found dead on an open field with stab wounds in Kenya's capital Nairobi on New Year.
Local sources claim that, if Kenyan authorities can prove a link between the murder of Kabura and his membership of the MSD, this could represent the first extra-judicial killing of a Burundian activist outside of Burundi's borders.
Having fled his native neighbourhood of Musaga in Burundi's capital Bujumbura, Kabura settled in the Kawangware area of Nairobi. He was found unconscious on along the Kinyanjui Road, according to local reports. In a statement posted on social media, the MSD claimed Kabura had been assassinated by members of the Imbonerakure – the youth wing of Burundi's ruling CNDD-FDD.
"Burundi exports death in the subregion," the tweet read.
Commenting on the murder, Joseph Ondoro, Dagoretti Division head of the Directorate Of Criminal Investigation (DCI), told local press police is investigating the killing, adding it was not clear who attacked Kabura.
"We don't know who attacked him but a probe has been opened to get the attackers and know motive," he said, highlighting the fact the Kenyan authorities did not know if the victim was linked to any political party. Activists, however, have been sharing information on social media, claiming the man was killed over ongoing unrest in Burundi.
Cidi Otieno, a spokesperson for the Coalition for Constitution Implementation (CCI), a civil society group in Kenya, said the CCI had called on the government to "immediately investigate whether the killing is related to the ongoing Burundi crisis" and further asked the government "to provide security to all Burundians fleeing Burundi and seeking temporary refuge in Kenya".
In October, the body of an MSD member, Charlotte Umugwaneza, was found in the Gikoma river after the activist disappeared under what local residents described as strange circumstances.
'Death squads' in the region
As civil society groups called for a probe into the incident, a human-rights activist, who is now in exile in Rwanda, told IBTimes UK he was aware the Kenyan National Intelligence Services (NIS) had launched an investigation into the alleged presence of a 'death squad' in the region.
According to the source, the group's role would be to execute currently-in-exile Burundians opposed to the government of Bujumbura.
"We have informations about the fact the Kenyan secret services are looking into the possible infiltration in the capital Nairobi of a death squad from Bujumbura responsible for executing opponents to the ruling power in Bujumbura, [who are] refugees in Kenya," the activist said under condition of anonymity. "This is to be taken seriously. The report [that was allegedly seen by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the lower house of the Kenyan parliament] also stated that several capitals of the region could infiltrated."
According to the campaigner, these cities could include Nairobi, the Rwandan capital Kigali, and Butare and Gisenyi – towns in the country's southern and western provinces – as well as Uganda and Zambia's capitals Kampala and Lusaka.
The report allegedly also cites the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) towns of Goma – located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, next to the Rwandan city of Gisenyi – and Bukavu, along with the Tanzanian town of Kigoma.
16 injured and two killed
In Burundi, meanwhile, sources described how violence had picked up over the past few days. On Monday (4 January 2016), shells were fired in Bujumbura near the headquarters of the BBCI bank, tearing a woman's leg, according to an administration source, who made a provisional assessment of the situation.
At least 16 people were injured over the weekend in the capital in a number of unrelated incidents, including a grenade attack and an armed robbery. Local media on Sunday also reported two bodies had been found in Kinama and Ngagara. One of the victims was identified as William Nimubona, the president of the youth wing of the opposition party FNL (pro Agathon Rwasa).
The United Nations (UN) warned recently that Burundi was on the brink of civil war. Representatives of Burundi's government and opposition began a mediated effort under the banner of the East African Community, a regional bloc, in Kampala, Uganda, on Monday (26 December) to end the political violence. Nkurunziza was invited but was not present at the opening ceremony – which were held ahead of proper negotiations expected to start this month despite rumours that the government could pull out.
The UN refugee agency said at least 400 people have died since violence flared up in April 2015, including up to 68 victims of possible extra-judicial executions. Nearly 3,500 more have been arrested, while at least 220,000 people have since fled the country.