Reports have emerged that the recent fire that gutted a prison facility in Gitega, Burundi’s political capital could have actually killed more inmates than ambiguously reported.
On December 7, Gitega prison was devastated by a deadly fire which officially left 38 dead and 69 injured. But according to local associations, the toll could actually reach 300 dead.
Neither the journalists nor the Burundian Red Cross agents, present on site during the fire but kept away, had been able to see the number of bodies removed by the police. The latter, in the process, had buried them at night, without even informing the parents of the victims.
Two weeks later, the authorities still refuse to communicate on the subject; the families of those who lost theirs have still not been informed and are angry. Some have even been threatened or jailed, while local journalists have been silenced.
Only NGOs working clandestinely in the country can confirm the very heavy toll circulating in Gitega prison and its surroundings. And the only ones who can express themselves freely are those who live in exile like the president of the Human Rights League Iteka, Anschaire Nikoyagize.
“The managers of this episode have not yet operated any checks whereas previously the checks were carried out on a daily basis. The Iteka League is also concerned about the behaviour of these managers who continue to terrorize family members who come to ask about the situation of their loved ones. ”
Ligue Iteka and other human rights organizations assure that there were more than 300 victims during the fire in Gitega prison, based in particular on the testimonies of survivors, who assure that more than 250 inmates of room 4 of this prison could not escape because their door had remained closed by the guards.
And for Me Jean-Claude Ntiburumunsi of Acat-Burundi, the Burundian government knows, even if it does not want to speak.
“Before the fire, the prison had 1,539 inmates. Following this tragedy, the Ministry of National Solidarity donated 1,200 mattresses to the prison and all the prisoners were served … ”Where have the 339 others gone?
These organizations continue to denounce an “inhuman” burial for these victims who “did not respect either human dignity or Burundian culture”. They call on the Burundian government to review its copy.