Concerns raised as upsurge of hate speech stirs trouble in Burundi
Next month, according to IRIN News, the Commission of Enquiry on Burundi, is due to deliver its final report on abuses in the Central African state and to make a judgment as to whether these abuses, including killings, torture, and abduction, amount to international crimes.
As reported, ‘the commission has highlighted the prevalence of hate speech in Burundi, notably by the ruling party and its affiliates, saying such rhetoric, which often targets specific ethnic groups, “reinforced” human rights abuses.’ It has therefore ‘called for the state to take action against perpetrators,’ without hesitation.
It will be recalled that in 2015, an announcement by President Pierre Nkurunziza that he would stand for a controversial third term plunged the country into crisis. This announcement ‘marked by violent clashes between protestors and security forces.’ Burundi, therefore, continues to present numerous risk factors of further violent destabilisation and hate speech remains widespread, especially on social media, while authorities appear to being doing little to curtail it.
Another issue is the case of ‘Facebook posts and comments, some using pseudonyms of others containing blatant incitement to violence.
A recent poster on Facebook reportedly wrote: “All the problems the country has had were caused by the Tutsi… The Tutsi are difficult to live with. They are proud. They overestimate themselves. They are the descendants of Cain. The Tutsi massacred Hutus in 1968, 1972, 1994-2004. We must not forget these troubles and above all those who caused them.”
No doubt, posts like this have spurred conflicts amongst citizens and measures must be taken to arrest the situation. Another repulsive post came up on Facebook lately, describing Mujeris as dogs. According to the post, “Mujeri are little dogs which bite people. To eradicate the mujeri, they must be chased, even in their hiding places.”
Reacting to all of these issues around hate speech, Jurist Pacifique Manirambona, in effort to caution perpetrators, has called for investigations into the matter and sanctions levied on defaulters. He stated this recently in a media brief with IRIN.
“The state prosecutor or his office is supposed to take up such matters, initiate investigations, and prosecute those behind such hate speech.”
Correspondent: Ridwan A Olayiwola