The Mysterious Disappearance of a Burundian Journalist

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Jean Bigirimana, a 37-year-old father of two and a reporter, has been missing since 2016. The last time he was home with his family was four years ago. His mysterious disappearance drew controversies after one of his colleagues received an anonymous phone call alarming him of Jean’s arrest.

Investigations indicate Jean was last seen in Bugarama, which is about 45km from Bujumbura. It was on the same day that the National Security Service of Burundi arrested him. Jean vanishing has brought so much grief to his family. They express their agony by stating that they do not know whether he is alive or dead. Families may know the fate of their loved ones, especially when they are victims of enforced disappearance.

Amnesty International addresses Mysterious Disappearance

Rights groups have documented a series of human rights violations in Burundi. It is something they have been trying to solve for decades as the state is prone to a lot of violence. Amnesty has also appealed to the government of Burundi to approve the 2006 International Convection to ensure everyone is safe from enforced disappearance. About 63 states have reinstated this law.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International director for east and southern Africa, stated that 30th August was an International Day for victims of enforced disappearance. Hence, every year, humanitarian groups, families, and activists gather around the globe educating and celebrating. The strategy is significant in that it informs people.  Muchena also condemned the government of Burundi for putting little effort into solving these cases.

“The Burundian government’s failure to account for him is an affront to the principles of truth, justice, and accountability,” Muchena added, urging the new government of President Evariste Ndayishimiye to “end the practice of enforced disappearances immediately” and prosecute perpetrators of such acts.

United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi reported that sovereign bodies and security forces are still abusing human rights. They have received many cases involving violations of human rights. Following the numerous disappearances, UN investigators appealed to the Burundian government to form a body to handle the cases. They also demanded that the investigations should involve exhuming potential mass graves and reveal the identity of the remains.

Families at Risk

Although rights groups are employing measures to discover the truth behind enforced disappearance, families of these victims could be at risk. The process can be dangerous for family members seeking the truth behind the fate of their loved ones.

When families send disappearance reports of their loved ones to the body governing the cases, the body transmits this information to other governments to carry out the investigation. Therefore, families seeking transparency could be in danger.

In countries like Nepal, over 2500 people have gone missing, and to date, disappearances still occur in the country. There is no closure amongst the government and families who are pursuing their missing members.

Bhandari, founder of the Network of Families of the Disappeared in Nepal argued:

“The government is fully betraying victims and survivors and has not been honest about implementing the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement to address the legacy of forced disappearances.”

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