THE former head of Burundi’s army during its 13-year civil war was assassinated Saturday, his family told AFP.
Colonel Colonel Jean Bikomagu, a key figure in the former Tutsi-dominated army, was gunned down in his car by unidentified assailants as he was about to enter his home in Kinindo, a southern district of the capital Bujumbura, a family member said.
The killing of Bikomagu is the second in less than two weeks involving either a serving or former top general.
On August 2 a Burundian general and close aide to President Pierre Nkurunziza was killed in an ambush on his car in the capital Bujumbura.
The general, Adolphe Nshimirimana, was widely seen as the crisis-hit central African nation’s de facto internal security chief and even considered the regime’s number-two.
Police and witnesses said General Nshimirimana’s pick-up was hit by two rockets and sprayed with automatic gunfire in the capital on Sunday morning, and he was later confirmed dead, along with his driver.
The assassination came just over a week after President Nkurunziza was declared the outright winner of controversial elections, securing a third consecutive term despite opposition protests and international condemnation.
Nkurunziza’s candidacy was condemned as unconstitutional by the opposition and provoked months of protests that left at least 100 dead in a fierce government crackdown, as well as an attempted coup in mid-May.
General Nshimirimana, a Hutu, was seen as the mastermind behind the crackdown on the protests as well as a key player in foiling the coup attempt. A source in the presidency said then that the situation in Burundi was “serious” and warned of a possible wave of revenge attacks.
“The situation is very serious. The general was somebody who was essential in the system,” said the source, who asked not to be named. “We are trying to manage the situation but it is not easy. Our boys want to take revenge.”
The violence in Burundi has polarised an already-divided country, and many fear that the violence risks renewing conflict in the country that could bring another humanitarian disaster to central Africa’s troubled Great Lakes region. The last civil war in Burundi, which ended in 2005, left at least 300,000 people dead.
The Burundi government, has kept up its attacks on the media and civil society activists. . The political crisis has seen independent media outlets shut down and many journalists have fled the country or have gone into hiding because of threats and attacks.
Over 180,000 Burundians have fled as refugees to neighbouring countries.