(Vatican Radio) An official for Caritas Internationalis said the tit-for-tat killings seen in Burundi over the past months between supporters and opponents of President Pierre Nkurunziza have created “a complete climate of fear” among the population. The violence began in Burundi last April when President Nkurunzia announced he would seek a third term. Over 400 people have died and around 250,000 have fled abroad and many fear that the nation could be slowly sliding back into another civil war. Patrick Nicholson is the Communications Director for Caritas Internationalis and he spoke to Susy Hodges from the Burundian capital, Bujumbura.
“There’s fear everywhere”
Nicholson said he had spoken to many residents during his visit to Bujumbura and said that in the “contested” areas of the capital “there is a complete climate of fear” with people locking themselves into their houses after 6pm and sometimes even “locking themselves into their cellars.” He spoke of how he had heard the sounds of shooting at night during his stay in the Burundian capital.
“People are feeling their lack of freedom, the repression.”
Asked whether the population in Burundi fears that the nation could be sliding back into a civil war, Nicholson said that right now “people are not talking about a full-scale civil war” but are still living in a kind of limbo whilst hoping for “a political solution” to the nation’s crisis. He told us that the local Catholic Church has been a strong voice calling for an inclusive dialogue between the parties.
One of the impacts of this prolonged violence has been a worsening economic crisis which Nicholson said “really does bite.” The government can no longer offer free medical treatment at hospitals but often the patients cannot afford to pay for their treatment because they have no work or money and so Caritas tries to give a helping hand with their medical bills.
Turning to the future, Nicholson said Caritas is also trying to ramp up their humanitarian operation inside Burundi just in case “the worst happens” so they can help those in need.