Human rights activists have raised the alarm after footage showing men belonging to the youth wing of Burundi's ruling CNDD-FDD party singing a song calling for intimidation of political opponents and an incitement to rape, emerged on Wednesday (5 April).
The video, which was filmed and circulated by human rights activists collecting evidence of what they describe as rights violations in Burundi, shows lines of men singing as they attended an event organised on 1 April by the party in the commune of Ntega, in Kirundo province which borders Rwanda. Both the government and rights groups have authenticated the video.
The footage shows members of the Imbonerakure youth league singing the Kirundi verse "Ter'inda abakeba bavyare imbonerakure", which translates to "Impregnate the rivals (opponents) so they can give birth to Imbonerakure".
The video comes after several reports, including from IBTimes UK and Human Rights Watch, documenting the use of targeted rapes as weapon to exert control on the population. Victims were for the large majority members or suspected supporters of opposition parties, or linked to men suspected of opposing the regime.
Since the end of 2013, human rights organisations in Burundi have rung alarm bells about the Imbonerakure's activities with regards to potential violations, and the teachings they were given.
"It's the first time that allegations that have been made since 2014 have been evidenced. We knew these songs were sung but never managed to have the sound or the picture showing youths singing them," a Burundian NGO worker, who specialises in preventive diplomacy and who spoke under condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, told IBTimes UK.
"The hate speeches they share amount to a violation as they express the desire to and incite them to use rape as a weapon," the NGO worker said. "The song expresses both the sensitisation and the teachings they receive."
A man working for the banned RCP – Réseau des Citoyens Probes which authenticated the video, filmed by partners working in the north of the country – who has asked to be called Pascal, told IB Times UK that "every weekend there are events like these, and every time these songs are sung, even before party officials, even at the highest level".
For instance, Pascal recalled, on 11 March, during an event organised in Muyinga, in Muyinga Province, RCP documented Imbonerakure singing the same song. "It's sort of become a way of life, but this gives them a bad image because it incites them to commit crimes. The songs not only target girls and women, but also anyone who is not in support of the regime must be wiped out," Pascal added.
The RCP worker said these songs reminded him of messages shared before and during the genocides of 1972 and 1993. "It also resonates the history of our neighbour, Rwanda. Before the genocide happened, similar formations were happening, and Interahamwe sung similar songs," he added.
"In our eyes, this gives a bad image of Burundi, but we also fear this could degenerate into other crimes against humanity. If we start decriminalising these acts, in the end they become normal."
CNDD-FDD condemns Imbonerakure's actions
The CNDD-FDD first claimed the footage was a montage and the footage filmed outside of Burundi, before criticising the use of ''inappropriate language" which ''does not conform with moral standards nor with party ideology".
The ruling party's national secretary, Nancy-Ninette Mutoni promised a disciplinary inquiry against those appearing in the video in a statement (below).
It is the first time the CNDD-FDD has reacted so firmly against the youth wing, which has been in the past accused of violence towards suspected opposition supporters.
Burundi's crisis has killed thousands of people and pits supporters of President Pierre Nkurunziza against those who say that his re-election in July 2015 for a third term violated the nation's constitution.