In December 2016, a viral video posted to social media appeared to show a red liquid which looked like blood pouring from a drain outside of a home in Bujumbura’s Kinindo region, in Burundi’s west. It was alleged that Intelligence officers in the central African nation of Burundi are allegedly using private houses as detention centres to detain and torture the political opponents of President Pierre Nkurunziza. However the government quickly released a statement and refuted the allegation as baseless.
An investigation launched by BBC Africa Eye has identified the location of the home and spoken to alleged captives and guards who were at the location in the wake of the 2015 Burundi political unrest.
The BBC spoke to the home’s owner, Prosper Kaze – who fled Burundi during the 2015 protests as a member of the Burundian opposition and confirmed the house is located at 73 Avenue Ntwarante.
“It’s the place where I grew up, so I can’t mistake it,” Kaze told the BBC earlier this year.
In 2015, peaceful protests claiming Nkurunziza’s plan to run for a third term in office were unconstitutional turned violent, resulting in people rioting in the streets and hundreds being shot dead.
After Kaze and his family left Burundi, images surfaced of the country’s security forces raiding his home and taking control of it.
This year, a person known as ‘Pierre’ who claimed to have been held captive in the house revealed the horrific treatment allegedly suffered by individuals at the hands of intelligence service officers.
“If they wanted to question someone, they would call him and they would approach the ‘Chief’,” he told the BBC.
“If they were not satisfied with your answer, they would torture you. You would hand them your hands and they would beat you with electric cables, also they would cane you… while kneeling.”
Pierre also claimed he heard two people who attempted to escape be violently killed in the grounds of the building.
“We could hear people shouting and saying, ‘get those dogs, don’t let them escape’,” he said.
“When they finally caught them, I could hear them screaming in a way that suggested that they were being killed or being inflicted excruciating pain.
“They did not come back in the house after, I think they were killed.
“[The ‘Chief’] said, bring socks and stuff in those dogs and load them in the car.”
Another person, known as ‘Nathan’ who claimed to have been a security guard at the house in December 2016, told the BBC he witnessed three detainees be killed.
“An intelligence agent came and took them out of their detention room to the living room,” he said.
“[The chief] ordered his guys to behead them. At that point, one of the guys, who was a tough man, tried to forge ahead and escape.”
After the one escapee was allegedly caught and killed, and the other two men beheaded, Nathan said their bodies were disposed of, but their blood remained.
Kaze said that, if the blood had been cleaned up and poured into a bathroom drain, it would link up with the gutter that featured in the social media video.
Despite that, the Burundian government has always denied any connection to the alleged detention locations and has not commented on the social media video.
In response, an anonymous individual told the BBC that while there is currently no unrest in the country, the alleged killings of political prisoners still occur under the name ‘Kamwe Kamwe’ – meaning ‘one by one’.
“Some people think that the country is safe now,” he said.
“I want to tell you this – this small respite is, for them, the best time to carry out the killings without anyone noticing it.”
-BBC News and other news agencies
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