The National Strategic Plan (NSP) on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Campaign, consisting of 33 civil society organisations across South Africa, notes with deep concern the ongoing crisis in Burundi, where political and ethnic violence is threatening the stability of the country and the lives of its citizens. Women and children are at particular risk of being subjected to extreme harm during periods of conflict.
Rape and sexual violence are extensively used by those in power as a means of control and to exert dominance and power over those who are most vulnerable. Throughout history, we have seen the ways in which these forms of abuse used during times of war and civil conflict to the extent that they have methodically become weapons of war. This, however, has not remained in the past and is evident across the globe today in areas rife with conflict.
The escalating conflict in Burundi is no stranger to these methods, with reports indicating that rape is increasingly being used as a weapon of war. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, has called attention to the high levels of sexual violence engulfing the country. A breakdown in law allows those perpetrating these heinous acts to not only continue to do so, but also to get away with it. Additionally, victims are unable to access justice.
Since April 2015, when Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would serve a controversial third term in office, over 400 civilian lives have been lost and over 230 000 people have fled the country. Alongside serious allegations of gang rapes and torture by security forces and militia groups reportedly aligned to the government, as well as the discovery of mass graves this month, these facts indicate that the country is sliding further towards instability and civil war.
Given South Africa’s leading role in mediating and ending the previous civil war in Burundi, the NSP on GBV campaign calls on the South African government to be more vocal and to advocate on behalf of those vulnerable and those unable to in Burundi, for mechanisms that will restore stability and the rule of law. We urge our government to use its influence as the negotiator of the Arusha Peace Accords, to ensure that all relevant parties come to the table to discuss ways in which to move forward.
We further call on leadership, including the African Union and the United Nations to provide protective action for the people of Burundi, particularly women and children, to ensure that no further harm befalls them, while simultaneously calling for accountability by the leadership of Burundi.
South African citizens, we encourage and urge you to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Burundi who are faced with and live in deplorable and terrifying conditions every day. An injury to one is an injury to all!
Signed: The National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence Campaign – a coalition of 33 civil society organisations.
This press release is endorsed by:
- New World Foundation
- Sonke Gender Justice
- Access Chapter 2
- Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
- World AIDS Campaign International
- TB/HIV Care Association
- Thando Care Service and Development Centre
- Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme
- Justice and Women
- Women’s Legal Centre
- Sekwele Centre for Social Reflection
- Greater Rape Intervention Programme
Steve Mmapaseka Letsike
Access Chapter 2
Tel: 012 430 3272
Sonke Gender Justice
Tel: 021 423 7088