Ten years since Titanic Express Massacre in Burundi but campaigners still demand justice

This post marks (belatedly) the tenth year anniversary since the Titanic Express Massacre in Burundi.

Ten years have passed since the ill-fated Titanic Express bus was attacked as it travelled from Kigali in Rwanda to Burundi’s capital city, Bujumbura. Twenty-one people were killed including 27 year old British aid worker Charlotte Wilson and her fiance, Richard Ndereyimana, a Burundian teacher.

Amnesty International describes what happened on 28th December 2000:

The attack took place in Bujumbura Rural, a former stronghold of the then armed opposition group, the Palipehutu-National Liberation Forces (Palipehutu-FNL). Those onboard were separated according to their ethnicity. Hutu were released, while Tutsi passengers and one British woman were killed. The Burundian authorities, diplomatic sources and some international organisations have attributed responsibility to the then Palipehutu- FNL. The FNL denies involvement. Ten years later, those responsible have not been investigated and brought to justice.

This devastating event was only one in a series of mass killings during the Burundian civil war, says the human rights organisation. Along with his family, Charlotte Wilson’s brother, Richard, a blogger, author and human rights activist, continues to campaign for justice. On the 10th anniversary of the killings he said:

“Despite repeated promises from Burundi’s government, no serious effort has been made to deliver justice for the 21 victims of the Titanic Express massacre. Tragically, those responsible for Charlotte’s murder have killed many more innocent people over the last ten years, while countless others have died in reprisal attacks, highlighting the deadly consequences of Burundi’s culture of impunity. The Burundians we know tell us that justice can help end the cycle of violence.

“In solidarity with all those who have lost loved ones in this brutal conflict, my family calls on President Nkurunziza to honour the memory of the victims, and move swiftly to establish the Special Chamber and TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Council].”

Amnesty International UK supports this call for the Burundian government to establish the Special Tribunal, and stipulates that such a body should be “mandated to independently investigate and prosecute serious human rights violations without prior referral from the TRC”.

Richard Wilson is also campaigning for the release of journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu. He writes on his blog:

Tragically, while the war criminals remain free, one of the Burundian journalists who has done most to highlight the Titanic Express massacre, Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, has been languishing in prison since July. He is facing a criminal trial for “defamation” and “treason” after making critical comments about Burundi’s army.

The Amnesty appeal for Kavumbagu’s release can be found here.

To mark the anniversary of the massacre Richard Wilson conducted a 24 hour ‘Twitterthon’, using Twitter to post messages about Burundi and its recent history every 15 minutes from 1.30pm on the 28th (the time that the attack began) to 1.30pm on December 29th 2010. His Twitter feed can be found here, @dontgetfooled. His aim was to detail human rights reports, expose the ongoing activity of the FNL and call for press freedom in Burundi.

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