President Thabo Mbeki on Friday (August 20, 2004) called on the International Criminal Court to investigate the Gatumba massacre in Burundi and prosecute those responsible.
Writing in the African National Congress’s online publication, ANC Today, he urged the African Union and United Nations to declare Burundi’s rebel Palipehutu-FNL a terrorist organisation.
Last Friday night, a refugee camp in Gatumba was attacked and more than 150 children, women and men massacred as they slept.
The camp was occupied by Democratic Republic of Congo refugees of the Banyamulenge ethnic group, which is related to the Tutsi population of Rwanda.
The attackers did not harm other refugees in camps a few metres away, who belonged to other Congolese ethnic groups.
The Palipehutu-FNL, which has refused to lay down arms and join the Burundi peace process, has claimed responsibility for the Gatumba massacre.
The massacre was discussed at the 22nd summit meeting of the Great Lakes Regional Peace Initiative on Burundi in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on August 18, and it was resolved to declare Palipehutu-FNL a terrorist organisation.
The meeting also called on the AU and the UN Security Council to support this decision, and for the relevant UN Security Council conventions and protocols on combating terrorism to apply in this regard.
Mbeki said the massacre will forever remain a blot on the African conscience, as well as a stern warning to all to remain permanently on guard for peace.
“The only fault of the dead was that they were Banyamulenge. A mindless and criminal hatred drove the killers to carry out an unpardonable crime against humanity.
“Hopefully, both the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council will urgently consider the request of the Regional Peace Initiative on Burundi to declare and act against Palipehutu-FNL as a terrorist organisation.
“Similarly, the International Criminal Court should investigate the Gatumba massacre and prosecute those responsible for this high [sic] crime,” he said.
These institutions, the one African and the others global in their jurisdiction, should act on the recommendation to punish those responsible for the Gatumba massacre.
“They must also act to give hope to … the youth of Africa that the generations that currently have the privilege to determine the future of our country, our continent and the world, are truly determined to hand over to all future generations a continent at peace with itself.
“They have to apprehend and neutralise the negative forces, including the mercenaries, which think that they can derive some benefit from the death of the innocents.
“They have a responsibility to contribute to the great efforts of the African masses to create the space and the conditions for them to build a better and humane life for themselves,” Mbeki said.—Sapa