The following piece was written by Burundian human rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, head of the APRODH (Association pour la Protection des Droits de l’Homme). Mbonimpa– known affectionately as Mutama, “the elder”– was shot in the face two weeks after the elections and is now in Belgium for medical treatment.
I am no stranger to the peculiarities of Burundian democracy. As an active citizen committed to defending human rights over the past 20 years, I have been harassed, arrested, imprisoned and mistreated by the authorities.
In Burundi, the exercise of democracy often means these things. On the evening of 3 August, I left my office in the centre of the capital city, Bujumbura, and barely even saw the motorbike ahead of me before the bullets shattered my windscreen and I was shot directly in the face.
Less than two weeks earlier the president, Pierre Nkurunziza, claimed victory in an election marred by violence and intimidation of the opposition, civil society activists, journalists and voters themselves.
In Burundi, we have a saying. You can’t hide the smoke of the hut you burn down.